MEN'S BASKETBALL: CREIGHTON ATMARQUETTE

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Meaningful games in February.

One of Creighton's goals coming into the season was to position itself to be playing games that matter at the end of the season.

"Games with postseason implications," Bluejays coach Greg McDermott said.

The true value of the Bluejays' Tuesday-night upset of fifth-ranked Xavier, McDermott and his players said, is that it elevates the importance of Creighton's remaining regular-season games.

"If we'd have lost this game, then Saturday's game doesn't mean as much," McDermott said. "We won a game that mattered, and that makes the next few games matter. We just have to build on this."

With junior point guard Maurice Watson scoring a career-high 32 points, Creighton rolled to a 70-56 victory over a Xavier team that had brought a 21-2 record and a second-place Big East standing into the game.

The victory improved the Bluejays to 16-9 and left them in a three-way tie for third place in the conference with a 7-5 record.

Creighton has six regular-season games remaining, including four on the road starting with Saturday's contest at Marquette. The Bluejays also must play at Xavier, Butler and Providence.

The victory over Xavier earned Creighton a 14-spot promotion in the NCAA's RPI rankings. At 86th, the Bluejays know they have plenty of work to do to try to polish their resume enough to gain the attention of the NCAA basketball committee.

They also know they will have a handful of big-time opportunities between now and Selection Sunday to go along with a victory over an elite team such as Xavier.

"Our goal for the start of this season was to get back to the NCAA tournament," Creighton center Geoffrey Groselle said. "We're fighting to get there.

"This was a big win for us, and if we're sitting on the bubble at the end of the year, this could be one of those wins that push over the edge and into the tournament."

The Big East placed six of its 10 teams in the tournament last season. A month before selection day, Villanova, Xavier, Providence and Seton Hall appear headed for berths in the tournament.

Creighton would like to add its name to that list, but Watson said it's important for the Bluejays not to get ahead of themselves. A week ago, Creighton was a saddled with a three-game skid that was threatening to drop the bottom out on their season.

"Our approach just has to be that every possession matters," Watson said. "It's all about being locked in and focused and paying attention to detail.

"We have to stay solid and stay grounded and stay hungry."

Contact the writer: 402-679-2298, steve.pivovar@owh.com twitter.com/PivOWH

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