The Creighton Curse Bites UConn Again

UConn came into Wednesday night’s matchup with Creighton on the road looking for revenge and a lock of the #3 seed in the Big East Tournament. After Creighton beat UConn in Hartford earlier this season 59-55, this date was circled on the calendar for payback. Unfortunately, UConn left with a giant L, a drop in Big East Tournament seeding, and several concerning injuries. Now sitting at 0-5 all-time against the Bluejays, there seems to be a mental block for the Huskies when they see the Creighton uniforms. They came out ice-cold on Wednesday night and for the 2nd time this season, trailed by 10pts at half against this team. After a valient comeback, the Huskies squandered several opportunities to take the lead and ultimately couldn’t get over the hump. The implications of the loss are fairly significant and could change the Huskies chances in the Big East Tournament with 1 regular season game to play.

Creighton coach Greg McDermott has a way of motivating his team when they play the Huskies. They seem to play harder and more aggressively, putting pressure on UConn from start to finish. When UConn gets back into a game, Creighton finds a way to do just enough to prevent the train from coming off the rails and ultimately is able to pull out a counterpunch. In Wednesday night’s matchup it felt like the game was tied at 50 for an hour after UConn was down 16 and came back. The Huskies ramped up their defense and got stops but couldn’t get a shot to drop if their lives depended on it. Not being able to get past the hump and take a lead, Creighton was able to grab hold of the game and pull out the close victory.

Overall, a 40.9% (27/66) FG percentage and a 27.3% (6/22) 3pt percentage is just not good enough. Add to that just 5 FT attempts all game and just 2 made FTs, UConn had opportunities that they just plain missed. For long stretches in this game the Huskies looked like the team from the middle of the season that was struggling to find its identity and losing close games on the regular. One of the biggest shifts for them that led to the 5-gane win streak was their ability to limit the damage and shift momentum after an opponent run. Tonight, it felt like the first 16 min of the game were one prolonged ice-cold streak followed by a short run and then an inability to get the big shot when the game was tied that seemed to demoralize UConn and energize the Bluejays. Overall, Adama Sanogo was guarded very well by Creighton and with the shots not falling, other players weren’t able to capitalize when Sanogo was doubled or tripled inside.

There were several scary injury moments in the game. In the first half, Sanogo left with a dislocated finger, Tyrese Martin left with what appeared to be a hand or wrist injury, and Jordan Hawkins left with a suspected concussion. Thankfully Sanogo and Martin returned to play, but Hawkins did not. All three are critical players for this Huskies team and there would be a huge hole without them going forward. Without Hawkins for much of the game, the bench got short very quick and in a high-intensity contest, it seemed that UConn was fatigued down the stretch. They were also missing Hawkins offensive ability and his threat to hit a three or drive for 2. It really became a 7-man rotation, which is tough in a tight, bruising Big East matchup.

With the loss, UConn falls to 4th in the Big East, which makes their path to the Big East Tournament title tougher. As a #3 seed, they would face either Georgetown or Seton Hall in the semifinals, but as the #4, they would likely face #5 Marquette in the semifinals, which is a tougher matchup. Then, if they were to win the semis, they would likely face the #1 Providence as a #4, rather than #2 Villanova if they were a #3 on their path to the title game (assuming no upsets). The loss also hurts UConn in their NCAA seeding and may drop them back to the 5 line without a deep conference tournament run. A #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament is much more favorable than a #5, obviously. None of that matters if UConn can play well, get some MSG magic and make a deep run, because a deep Big East Tournament run could push them up to the 4 or even possibly the 3 line for the NCAA Tournament.

Overall, the Creighton curse struck again on Wednesday night and added an L to the Huskies record. Not ideal for a team trying to play their best basketball down the stretch.

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