Omaha, Neb. — A game-high 25 points from Marcus Foster and a double-double by Martin Krampelj help seal a hard-fought victory from St. John’s, 78-71, on Wednesday in front of 16,167 fans at CenturyLink Center Omaha.
Creighton improved to 12-3 overall (2-1 BIG EAST) with its 11th straight home victory, and are now 7-0 all-time at home against the Red Storm. St. John’s dropped to 10-5 with its third BIG EAST loss in as many games.
There wasn’t much to separate the two teams in the opening 10 minutes of the game, with both teams trading baskets. Foster hit his first three treys in the opening six minutes to help give Creighton a 15-13 lead going into the first media timeout. Bashir Ahmed scored 10 of the first 14 points for the Red Storm, but a floater from Foster gave Creighton a 18-17 lead.
Creighton would extend that lead, going on a 10-2 run to force a timeout and give the Bluejays a 28-21 lead. With four minutes left in the half, freshman Ty-Shon Alexander slipped Foster through with a gorgeous bounce pass as Foster finished with a thundering dunk, giving the Bluejays a 36-29 lead going into the final media timeout.
The Bluejays would not see the basket the rest of the half however. A 9-0 run at the 2:02 mark would give the Red Storm a long-awaited lead, 38-36. They would close out the half scoring the next five points, going into halftime with a 43-36 lead. The Bluejays turned the ball over seven times, compared to only three by the Red Storm. St. John’s shot 50% from the floor, including 47% from beyond the arc. After a hot start from three, Creighton finished making only 38.5 percent of its 13 attempts from long-range.
The Jays came out fighting with a Khyri Thomas trey and forced a shot clock violation on their opening possessions, but couldn’t continue the momentum initially in the second half. St. John’s would extend their lead to 10 points going into the first media timeout of the second half.
Following a Marvin Clark Jr. basket with 15:16 left would be the beginning of a near seven-minute drought for the Red Storm, during which the Jays would start clawing their way back into the game. An acrobatic slip pass from Thomas and an emphatic dunk by Krampelj would force St. John’s coach Chris Mullin into a timeout with CU trailing 56-51. CenturyLink Center Omaha would be rocking soon after when Thomas hit another jumper, followed by solid team defense to force a turnover from St. John’s on what would finish to be a 13-0 run, highlighted by an and-one dunk by Krampelj. The run would put the Jays up 59-56, after 11 straight defensive stops.
A bucket by Shamorie Ponds would end the scoring drought, but only to have that score answered right back at the other side of the court by a trey by Foster, as well as a foul to send Krampelj to the line. During the stretch St. John’s would go 2-13 from the floor.
Trading buckets into the final media timeout, the Jays would lead 70-67 with 3:33 left in the game. A CU turnover led to an easy transition basket for St. John’s that would cut it to 70-69, but only until Ronnie Harrell Jr. could drain a trey from the other end of the floor. Justin Simon’s steal and score narrowed CU’s lead to 73-71 with 1:26 left. A Bluejay miss saw the Red Storm get out in transition, but Simon’s potential game-tying lay-up was swatted off the backboard by Krampelj, and the Red Storm were forced to foul. CU missed the front end of a free throw before SJU reciprocated when 93.5 percent shooter Marvin Clark II missed the front end and CU obtained possession with 42.3 left.
The Jays called timeout with 21.9 to play and would work the ball to Foster, who would flip the ball back to Thomas in the corner after his drive was stopped. Thomas’ trey bounced off the rim, then the backboard, before falling in with 15.7 seconds left to put the lead to 76-71. After another stop free throws by Harrell Jr. would finish the game at 78-71.
The Jays were lead by a game-high 25 points from Foster. Krampelj finished with his fourth double-double, 14 points and 11 rebounds. Thomas scored 12 of his 17 in the second half, and Harrell Jr. finished his night with a season-best 13. The Red Storm were led by Ahmed with 21 points, as all five starters finished the night in double digits.
The Jays overcame losing the turnover battle 17-7 by outrebounding the Red Storm 41-23. Creighton also got 17 points out of their bench, while St. John’s failed to register a single point from their bench. Creighton shot 60.9% from the floor, including 55.6% from the three, in the second half, and shot 52.8 percent overall. St. John’s went cold, shooting 40% from the field and only 8.3% (1-12) from distance after intermission.
Creighton goes on the road to face Georgetown on Saturday, January 6 at 11 a.m. Central.