When defending a team that runs multiple looks from an extensive playbook, all it takes is one minor mistake and you’re pulling the ball out of the net.
Maybe someone forgets to bump a cutter. Or someone tries going over the top of an off-ball screen — instead of chasing his man — and gets picked off. Or someone is late rotating to help defend the paint. Or someone fails to communicate a switch.
The Bluejays (11-3, 1-1) weren’t flawless defensively in Sunday’s 83-64 win — Providence had a few open looks that it typically knocks down — but Creighton’s effort on that end of the floor made the difference in a game between two familiar foes.
No. 25 Creighton, by crowding shooters and cleaning up on the glass, never let the Friars find their rhythm in front of a sold-out crowd at the CenturyLink Center.
“We were very conscious of keeping each other locked in,” junior Ronnie Harrell said. “Because if we messed up — bumps or communication, small things like that — it could lead to an easy bucket, especially with the type of offense that they run. I feel like we did a good job of that.”
It started Friday.
The Jays had to move past a disappointing 90-84 defeat at No. 23 Seton Hall on Thursday — though their mistakes in the final three minutes nagged at them. The frustration lingered into Friday’s practice, coach Greg McDermott said.
But Big East play doesn’t allow for much sulking — not if you want to contend for a top-half finish.
So the leaders started encouraging. They brought the positive energy. Soon everyone was immersed in Providence prep.
Creighton’s ability to dig into the scouting report and develop a plan during the two days of practice — then apply it with tenacity Sunday — stood out to McDermott.
“You have to be ready every day,” he said. “Obviously you could see the disappointment in their eyes and in their body language that first practice. But they turned the page pretty quick.”
That was evident early, as Providence (10-5, 1-1) struggled to free up its top scorers or share the ball with any fluidity.
The Friars shot 38.7 from the floor. They turned the ball over nine times in the first half. The team that entered Sunday ranked 18th nationally in 3-point shooting (41.4 percent) knocked down 3 of 23 from beyond the arc on the afternoon.
There was a six-minute scoring drought before the break — Providence missed 11 shots in a row — that helped CU create some cushion. The Jays went on a 9-0 run during that span, jumping in front 25-14 on Khyri Thomas’ fast-break layup at the 7:44 mark.
“When the ball goes through the net, it’s a lot easier,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “When it don’t, God bless ya.”
He said Creighton deserves some credit for that.
The Jays bottled up point guard Kyron Cartwright, who turned his ankle and sat for most of the second half. Thomas made life tough on Rodney Bullock, one of the league’s best offensive players. They tried to stick tight to Jalen Lindsey — both of his 3-point makes came on mistakes by defenders, McDermott said.
The Friars ended up averaging 0.831 points per possession. It was their third-worst shooting performance of the year. They grabbed eight offensive boards, their second-lowest total of the season.
Even when Providence scored, it couldn’t exhale.
On three occasions, senior Marcus Foster got behind the Friar defense after made buckets, bolting to the rim for a layup, a three-point play and a dunk. The Jays had a 12-4 edge in fast-break points — but the threat of a surge-sparking transition bucket was always there.
Foster, who scored 18, brought the crowd to its feet when he nailed a pull-up jumper well behind the 3-point line at the end of the shot clock, capping an 11-3 spurt to open the second half that gave Creighton a 50-32 lead.
It wasn’t just Foster who kept the pressure on Providence, either.
The four other CU starters finished in double figures. Four Jays had at least three assists. They were talking and clapping from the get-go, playing with confidence and belief — as if that result three days earlier didn’t occur.
The Jays made sure they were ready to clinch their needed bounce-back win Sunday.
“We knew that it was just a matter of us going back, looking and seeing what we did and correcting our mistakes,” Harrell said. “Not letting anybody get down. Just having each other’s back.”