Playing on its temporary home court last night for the first time this season, St. Joseph's was nearly shot out of the Palestra before rallying and giving Creighton cause to wonder whether it would leave with a win after all.
Before the Bluejays claimed a 69-58 nonleague victory, St. Joe's had cut a 19-point deficit with less than eight minutes remaining to six points with 1 minute, 7 seconds to play. That was, however, as close as the Hawks came.
With Creighton guard Booker Woodfox setting the pace by making 7 of 9 long-range attempts on his way to a career high of 29 points, the Bluejays set season highs in three-point attempts with 28 and in three-point baskets with 13.
"Ah, man, they shot the ball extremely well," said Hawks guard Darrin Govens (13 points), who joined forward Ahmad Nivins (18) and Tasheed Carr in double figures.
With 6,418 fans in the building, which is the Hawks' home as Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse undergoes renovations, St. Joseph's fell to 3-4. Creighton improved to 5-2.
On the strength of six three-point baskets during the last 12:23 of the first half, Creighton was up by 12 at intermission.
"We felt if we could hold this game in the 65-point range that we would be in the game," said St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli, whose squad went 2 for 15 from deep. "That just wasn't the case. When you get outscored from the three-point line, 39-6, it's hard to make those points up.
"What they did was they came with a little different game plan offensively," Martelli said. "They did a lot of ball-screening, and they spread us out."
Creighton, of the Missouri Valley Conference, went into the game with 10 letter-winners and three starters from a NIT team that finished 22-11 under coach Dana Altman, who is in his 15th year with the Bluejays. Among the returnees was Kaleb Korver, a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard who is the brother of former 76er Kyle Korver, a Creighton alum.
Nothing too eventful happened before Korver started Creighton's rash of treys with a jumper from the right wing that gave the Bluejays a 13-11 edge. Next, Woodfox nailed a bomb from the left wing. After Korver fed 6-9 Kenny Lawson Jr. for a dunk, Creighton was up by 18-11 with 11:37 remaining in the first half.
The Bluejays' advantage at the break was 32-20. The ledger showed St. Joe's with nine turnovers and Creighton with only three.
"We were too scattered in the first half," Martelli said about his team's efforts to score.