Well, we all knew coming into this season that the thing that would keep Creighton from making the jump from "really talented mid-major squad who showed flashes but never put it together" and advance to "legitimate contender" would be their defense.
There was some disagreement as to whether the argument to be made was "can last season's weak defense be fixed" or simply "can the defense make fewer mistakes", but the consensus was clear: Bluejays, you better buckle down on the defensive end or you'll waste a potentially elite season from your stud Doug McDermott.
We pointed out during the preseason that a team who finished last season ranked No. 222 in the nation in defensive field goal percentage last season had to make improvements of some kind to be seen as legitimate. So far this season, they had done so, while McDermott seemed to be rounding into shape coming off 30 and 29 point games.
Then, into CenturyLink walked the Boise State Broncos. Sure, the Broncos were 4-1, but it seemed their #69 MRI ranking revealed their true identity - four wins against weak opponents (all in the bottom 100 of the MRI) and a near miss against their one solid opponent.
Tonight, perhaps, shows that their near miss against Michigan State shows what the team is truly capable of. Boise sophomore guard Derrick Marks had looked this season like something might be about to happen - he was only shooting 39 percent from the field, but had still managed to average 16.4 points per game for the Broncos thanks to his skill getting to the line.
If only he could get that shot to come around...and tonight Creighton's 2011 defense showed up and let him do exactly that. The Jays allowed Boise to shoot 9-for-14 from 3-point range, but Marks only managed seven points in the first half and had five turnovers to go with it. Then the second half happened.
Marks was driving the lane, nailing pick-and-pop jumpers, and generally abusing Creighton's ability to shut down penetration. This should come as no surprise given how Boise burned them from deep, and I'm presuming they overcompensated. In an eight minute span, Marks outscored the Jays 16-14 by himself, finishing the second half 10-for-15 from the field and accumulating 28 points.
Creighton made a run to pull close late, but Boise scored the final eight points to make the final margin. The Bluejays will now look to lick their wounds and get revenge this weekend against St. Joseph's.