St. John’s caught a big break Saturday. Seventh-ranked Creighton’s best player, Big East Preseason Player of the Year Marcus Zegarowski, was ruled out shortly before tip-off due to injury.
This, the common thinking went, gave the Red Storm a chance on the road in Omaha, Neb. Instead, Zegarowski’s absence made the Johnnies’ performance even more worrisome.
Creighton toyed with St. John’s, throttled the Red Storm in the paint and on the perimeter. And the Bluejays cruised to a 97-79 victory, sending the Johnnies further down the Big East standings with a 1-5 conference record (6-6 overall), and making it look like the two teams shouldn’t have been sharing the same court.
The Bluejays (10-2, 6-1) made a mockery of the Red Storm’s pressure defense, committing just 12 turnovers, shooting 54 percent from the field and making 16 attempts from 3-point range.
Creighton scored 56 first-half points, a program record in Big East play, and reached its season average of 82 with more than nine minutes remaining.
Most concerning was the disparity in effort. Creighton frequently had wide open 3-point looks. St. John’s lost most of the 50/50 balls. The Johnnies repeatedly were beaten downcourt, players jogging instead of sprinting.
Without Zegarowski, Creighton had balanced scoring, with six players in double figures. Denzel Mahoney led the way with 24 points.
Sophomore Julian Champagnie was the one St. John’s player to show up, scoring a career-high 33 points. He didn’t have much help. Second-leading scorer Greg Williams Jr. was held scoreless for the game’s opening 29 minutes. Vince Cole and Isiah Moore combined for eight points on 3-of-15 shooting.
Nobody defended well and now St. John’s will return home after a winless week needing to respond in a major way.