CLEVELAND, Ohio – The glass slipper broke for the Ohio University Bobcats Monday night when the Creighton Bluejays flexed their muscles for a 72-58 victory at Indianapolis Hinkle Fieldhouse that sent them to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
Creighton will play unbeaten, No. 1 seed and national championship favorite Gonzaga this weekend.
The Bobcats competed in this game just like the previous four, underdogs to a higher seed. Still, they were only lightly tested, in the NCAA opener against Virginia, and certainly not pressured with any shortage of consequences. But Creightons muscle frustrated Ohios scorers, Jason Preston and Ben Vander Plas, in a combined 4-of-22 shootout and a combined 10 of the Bobcats 14 sales.
I had one of the worst games of my career today, said Preston, a 6-4 junior considered a possible NBA draft pick. It’s really stupid that it’s all over.
He finished with four points (1-of-10), nine rebounds, seven assists and four turnovers. Vander Plas had nine points, ten rebounds and six turnovers.
Creighton point guard Marcus Zegarowski led the Bluejays with 20 points, leading five players in double digits. Dwight Wilson led the Bobcats with 12.
OU coach Jeff Boals had downplayed Creighton’s physical play before the game, but said afterwards that that was clearly the difference.
They are a physical team, much better than what I saw on tape, Boals said. I thought they were physically insulted. We fell short today. We didn’t have it.
After a quick start, everything that had fueled Ohios’ postseason excellence faded. His 3-point shot withered (7-of-30, 23.3%), his defense became porous and what had been a flawless execution after timeouts as miscues and missed shots led to Creighton points.
True to form OU opened on a 5-0 run. The Bluejays, known for their three-point prowess, went 0-for-5 to start the game. But once they brought the ball to the edge, they cashed.
The teams exchanged mini-runs in the middle of the half, with a draw at 19 and 7:39 left. But a problem area had emerged, with Ohios catalyst, Preston, scoreless at the time. He would not score his only basket until deep in the second half.
Soon, Creighton found an area where the Bobcats couldn’t compete – above the brim.
A pair of dunks in the alleys for Christian Bishop and then power drives to the hoop by Damien Jefferson helped the Bluejays get a 10-3 run for a 29-22 lead. The Bobcats called a timeout at 4:01 a.m. and staggered in tournament play for the first time.
Creighton wasn’t cool. Another Bishop inner ring put Ohio in its biggest hole in more than a month, 31-22. Scoring inside and out, Creighton put Ohio in its biggest half-time deficit of the season, 39-24, behind a 20-5 run.
The hope of rest is always to have a strong first five minutes. It was Creighton who withdrew and moved the lead to 52-31, just after the five minutes. With Creighton still bowing and Preston (1-of-10 shooting, four points) struggling, the match was essentially decided.
This is up to me, ”Preston said. I’ve missed so many makeable photos.
Ohio closed within nine runs in the final minutes, but Zegarowski closed it with a float and a few free throws to end the Bobcats season.
Boals should have pretty much the same roster next season, with Wilson as the lone senior. The Bobcats have learned a lot that they should be able to record in the 2021-22 season.
No. 1, they can compete with anyone, ‘he said. To taste this success, this will be the memory of your life.
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