Queens, NY – Creighton was able to pull away from St John’s late in the second half of a tough road game and come away with a 77-67 win. The victory keeps them close in the hunt in the Big East Conference standings. The Bluejays were led in scoring tonight by Ryan Nembhard’s 16 points to go along with his four rebounds and five assists. Arthur Kaluma added 13 points, six rebounds and five assists while Ryan Kalkbrenner finished with 12 points and eight rebounds for the night. The Red Storm were led in scoring by Joel Soriano’s 15 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
One of the biggest determining factors of tonight’s game was the 3-point shot. St John’s made more field goals overall and shot better from the field as a team but struggled guarding the three allowing Creighton to make 13 from behind the arc compared to their four. One of the catalysts for Creighton late was Kaluma. He struggled in the first half only scoring four points but came alive in the second half and hit three straight three pointers to stretch their lead late. His energy crashing the offensive glass led to some open looks for his teammates who were able to knock down shots while the projected second round draft pick struggled early.
Nembhard’s play was also a key factor in tonight’s win for the Bluejays. Ryan whose brother Andrew currently plays for the Pacers controlled the tempo of the game and was able to keep composed and keep the team afloat with his scoring and playmaking early in the second half after St John’s went on a 14-4 run. The Red Storm had a lot of trouble guarding him out of the pick and roll. He was easily able to get inside and collapse the defense leading to several layups at the rim for himself or kicking it out for an open shot.
Towards the end of the game Creighton had turned up the intensity defensively forcing tough shots and causing turnovers that led to easy fastbreaks. Kalkbrenner added to what is an already stellar defensive season for himself with four blocks tonight. He has a nice touch in the post and finished well close to the rim but struggled many times getting proper positioning. He was often either fronted easily in the post making entry passes tough or was completely knocked out of position and forced to relocate.
Despite the final score this was a close game until the end. Both teams tonight were evenly matched in a lot of categories but free throws and the three-point differential were the deciding factors in this one. Creighton (18-9, 12-4) continues to keep pace for seeding in the Big East as the tournament approaches as they take on Marquette in a key matchup at home on Tuesday. For St. John’s (16-12, 6-11), although they played Creighton tougher than they did in their last matchup, they’ll need to regroup as the regular season nears its end. They’ll look to do that against a weak Georgetown team on Wednesday followed by what should be a tough match-up against a No. 20-ranked UConn next Saturday at Madison Square Garden.