No lack of experience for No. 15 Creighton, No. 19 Marquette

NCAA Basketball
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Experienced lineups highlight the Big East showdown between No. 15 Creighton and host No. 19 Marquette on Tuesday night in Milwaukee.

Marquette (17-7, 7-5 Big East) relies mostly on seniors Markus Howard and Sacar Anim, junior Koby McEwen and sophomore Brendan Bailey. They account for 73.5 percent of the team’s scoring this season and 78 percent of the Golden Eagles’ points over the last five games.

Howard, a 5-foot-11 guard, was the country’s leading scorer as of Monday, averaging 27.3 points per game. He is also the Big East’s career leading scorer in league games with 1,408 points.

“It’s one thing to have to guard Markus Howard,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “He’s probably the elite scorer in college basketball. It’s another thing to have the efficiency on the offensive end when you’re challenged with the effort it takes to guard him defensively.”

Creighton (20-6, 9-4) returned five of its top six scorers from a year ago, led by guards Marcus Zegarowski (15.8 points, 5.2 assists per game), Ty-Shon Alexander (16.7 points, 5.3 rebounds) and Mitch Ballock (12.3 points, 5.5 rebounds). The trio has accounted for 202 3-pointers and 57.2 percent of Creighton’s points thus far.

When the teams met on Creighton’s home court in Omaha, Neb., on New Year’s Day, the Bluejays prevailed 92-75 behind 24 points from Ballock and 21 points, eight rebounds and a career-high six steals by Alexander.

Creighton, which has scored at least 90 points in five games this season, shot 50 percent from the field while scoring what was then a season-high total in points until their 93-64 defeat of DePaul on Saturday.

“Defensively, the No. 1 key for us was get back and make them play against our halfcourt defense, which obviously we didn’t have a great deal of success with,” Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said.

“And then secondly, our point of emphasis was guarding the ball. They’re very difficult to guard. It’s hard to simulate them, because they’re so good with the ball. They’re quick. They space.”

Creighton had an uncharacteristic 19 turnovers in routing DePaul.

The Bluejays have recorded a turnover on only 16 percent of their possessions, among the lowest rates in the nation. The Marquette defense has forced opposing teams to turn the ball over on just 15.5 percent of all possessions, among the worst in the nation.

Marquette’s offensive execution is mostly efficient, especially at home. In the Golden Eagles’ last four home games, they have scored an average of 79.8 points while allowing 65.5.

Amid all of Creighton’s experience, freshman guard Shereef Mitchell, a hometown product from Omaha, made headlines recently returning to action after missing four games with a head injury. In his first game back against DePaul, he had a career-high 11 points with two steals in 13 minutes.

“It’s like bringing in a pitcher that throws at a different speed,” McDermott said of Mitchell’s quickness coming from the bench. “He changes things defensively with his ability (to guard) on the basketball.”

–Field Level Media

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