At least Creighton fans got the opportunity to see Henry Ellenson play once in Omaha in what could be his short Marquette career.
The 6-foot-11 freshman forward is considered a prime candidate to move on to the NBA as a possible lottery pick. The Golden Eagles knew when they signed him that he was possibly a one-and-done player, and he’s done little to diminish those prospects.
Ellenson leads Marquette in scoring and rebounds. He scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Wednesday’s 66-61 victory over Creighton at the CenturyLink Center.
“He’s a matchup nightmare,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “He can go inside, and he made a couple of 3s tonight. He hit a couple of shots in critical moments when the game was being decided.
“He’s a heck of a player and a great talent.”
Ellenson came into Wednesday’s game 11th nationally in scoring (16.5 points per game) among freshmen and third in rebounding (10.0). His double-double against Creighton was his 16th of the season.
While Creighton had difficulty stopping Ellenson, Marquette did a lot better job on slowing Maurice Watson Jr., the Bluejays' prized junior point guard, in his first season with CU.
Watson finished with 14 points and five assists but he matched his season high with seven turnovers.
"Maurice Watson is the best guard in our league,'' Marquette guard Duane Wilson said. "Our focus was to really lock in and stop him. Our guys were pumped to come here and get revenge on this guys.''
CU still struggling behind arc
Creighton's struggles from beyond the 3-point line in Big East play is well documented. The Bluejays led the conference in 3-point shooting in non-league play but their shooting has gone south against Big East competition.
Creighton was shooting 31.1 percent from beyond the arc in its first 14 league games. That percentage will dip a big after the Bluejays shot 3 of 21 (14.3) from beyond the arc against the Golden Eagles.
Creighton missed its first 13 3-point shots before Isaiah Zierden made one with 9:04 to play in the second half. Zierden connected again to pull the Bluejays into a 56-56 tie, and Watson made Creighton's final 3-point basket with 3.3 seconds remaining.
"We missed a lot of open looks tonight, shots that we don't seem to miss in practice,'' McDermott said. "I've said it all year that we are a better-shooting team but we're running out of year.
"I still feel like if we can come out of it, we have a chance to go on a run. But sometimes you are what the numbers say you are. We chart a lot of stuff in practice, and the numbers in practice are a long way away from the numbers in games.''
Zierden and Watson took seven of Creighton's 21 3-point attempts, making three. Cole Huff finished the game 0 from 5 from beyond the arc, while Toby Hegner and James Milliken each were 0 for 3.
Like his coach, Huff is perplexed by Creighton's shooting woes.
"We have guys getting into the gym and getting shots up,'' said Huff, who scored 12 points and had nine rebounds. "Maybe for some reason the bright lights affect them in games. I don't know.
"Whatever it is, we need to figure something out.''
Lack of focus on details lead to loss
Late-season losses, especially for teams that are battling to try to make postseason play, have a habit of stinging more.
"I know that everyone in the locker room is hurting about this one,'' Creighton center Zach Hanson said. "We all knew how much this game meant to the goals we want to accomplish. It hurts and it's disappointing.''
Hanson finished the game with nine points and four rebounds. He also tied his career-high with three blocked shots.
He said he didn't think Creighton's downfall against the Golden Eagles had anything to do with the effort.
"It was more details and things we needed to focus on,'' Hanson said. "If we would have stuck to what we were supposed to, it might have changed the end of the game.''
Creighton had trailed for a total of 31 seconds in its last two home games against Marquette but led for just 35 seconds Wednesday night. ... Ellenson was assessed a technical foul after a play in the second half with 8:01 remaining. Ellenson and Zierden got tied up going for the ball after Ellenson had been fouled by another Creighton player. "I got fouled and the ball was between my legs,'' Ellenson said. "They said I grabbed his neck but I didn't mean to. Even the ref said that.'' The officials reviewed the play before assessing Ellenson his first technical since he started playing basketball. "That was my first tech ever,'' he said, smiling. "I'll just have to take it.'' ... Creighton has made a three-pointer in 741 straight games, but had a streak of 111 straight games with a first-half 3-pointer snapped when it went 0 for 9 in the first 20 minutes. ... Watson has led or tied for the team lead in assists each of the last 19 games. He had five against the Golden Eagles but committed seven turnovers. ... The sellout crowd of 17,412 lifted Creighton's season average to 17,048 fans per home game, which remains eighth-best nationally.