Bluejays battle Musketeers in Big East action

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Updated: 3/01 10:09 am

Cincinnati, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The ninth-ranked Creighton Bluejays continue their quest for the Big East championship when they travel to the Cintas Center for a conference clash with the Xavier Musketeers on Saturday evening.

Greg McDermott's Bluejays have certainly made an immediate impact in their first season in the Big East. Creighton is sporting a 13-2 conference mark, tied with Villanova atop the leaguer standings. The Bluejays have won four straight games and eight of their last nine overall, including a thrilling 72-71 victory over Seton Hall on Sunday.

Xavier is four games back in the conference race at 9-6, with three to play, so a conference crown is out of the question at this point. Still, the team sits in third place in the Big East (tied with Marquette) and seeks its 20th win of the season in this game. The Musketeers have split their last four games, after posting a 65-53 win at St. John's on Tuesday.

Xavier holds a 9-7 series advantage, but it is Creighton seeking the regular- season sweep after earning a shootout victory over the Musketeers on Jan. 12 in Omaha, 95-89.

One of the top offensive teams in the country, Creighton is averaging 80.6 points per game, shooting right around 50 percent from the floor overall (.499), including a nation's best .428 from behind the arc. The 3-pointer is a major weapon in the Bluejays' arsenal, ranking second in the nation with 10.3 treys per game. All-American Doug McDermott is closing out a brilliant collegiate career and currently leads the nation in scoring at 26.0 ppg. McDermott, who shoot .521 from the floor and .443 from long range, also finds time to lead Creighton in rebounding (6.9 rpg). Fellow forward Ethan Wragge adds to the perimeter assault with 11.3 ppg, fueled by a sizzling .500 from behind the arc. The two forwards have combined for 157 3-pointers this season.

Creighton couldn't convert its free-throws in the waning seconds, but Seton Hall failed to take advantage, as the Bluejays slipped by in a one-point decision. McDermott was once again the driving force for a team that shot .512 overall, including .533 from 3-point range (8-of-15), pouring in 29 points in the win. Grant Gibbs added 16 points in a complementary role.

Xavier shot 46.2 percent from the field and took advantage of St. John's 36.7 percent effort to put one in the win column at Madison Square Garden this week. Jalen Reynolds had a huge game, coming off the bench to finish with 17 points and 16 rebounds. Semaj Christon had a strong all-around game as well, with 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Matt Stainbrook and Isaiah Philmore tacked on 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Xavier has been efficient as well this season, shooting .476 from the field, en route to 72.5 ppg. The team has also enjoyed success on the glass with a +5.6 rebounding margin. Christon is the straw that stirs the drink for Xavier, leading the team in scoring (16.5 ppg), while also getting teammates involved (4.1 apg). Stainbrook and Justin Martin are tied for second on the team in scoring (11.1 ppg). Stainbrook is strong rebounder, ranking second in the Big East with 8.1 rpg.

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