Scouting report: Another tough road test for No. 13 Xavier at Creighton

Colby Jones and the Xavier Musketeers found a way to beat Creighton at home earlier this month. On Saturday, they'll try to do it again, this time on the road at the CHI Health Center Omaha.
Colby Jones and the Xavier Musketeers found a way to beat Creighton at home earlier this month. On Saturday, they'll try to do it again, this time on the road at the CHI Health Center Omaha.
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OMAHA, Neb. ‒ For the second time this week, Xavier's men's basketball team plays a road game against a team it's already beaten this season at home.

The Musketeers, ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press poll, beat No. 19 UConn on Wednesday at Gampel Pavilion.

Creighton (12-8, 6-3 Big East), since losing at Xavier on Jan. 11, has won three in a row and the Bluejays currently sit in fourth place in the conference standings with everyone chasing the first-place Musketeers (17-4, 9-1).

The first meeting earlier this month was one of the most uptempo games Xavier coach Sean Miller said he's ever been a part of.

The final score was 90-87. Xavier needed a late run to hold on. The Musketeers got 26 points from Souley Boum, 20 from Colby Jones and 15 offensive rebounds to take down the Bluejays.

At UConn: How a text message and the arrival of depth helped Xavier conquer the road narrative

Saturday's matchup has the potential to be another track meet.

Creighton decided in the first meeting to put 7-foot-1 center Ryan Kalkbrenner on Zach Freemantle, then matched up a much smaller Arthur Kaluma on Xavier's 7-footer Jack Nunge.

Creighton's 7-foot-1 center Ryan Kalkbrenner was matched up on  Zach Freemantle in the first meeting and held the Xavier big man to five points. Still, the Musketeers held on for a 90-87 victory.
Creighton's 7-foot-1 center Ryan Kalkbrenner was matched up on Zach Freemantle in the first meeting and held the Xavier big man to five points. Still, the Musketeers held on for a 90-87 victory.

Nunge had 15 points. Freemantle only had five.

One storyline to follow is if the Bluejays stick with that plan, and what Xavier does to counter.

Xavier will have its hands full again defensively. All five Creighton starters scored in double figures in the first meeting and they accounted for 84 of Creighton's 87 points.

Left-handed sharpshooter Baylor Scheierman got red-hot and finished with 25 points and four 3-pointers. Creighton's backcourt of Ryan Nembhard and Trey Alexander combined for 33 points.

The Musketeers are going to need a connected effort on defense and they'll need another impactful effort on the glass in order to leave Omaha with a win.

More:What we learned from Xavier's thrilling win over Creighton

The Game

  • Tipoff: 12:15 p.m. on Saturday at the CHI Health Center Omaha

  • TV/Radio: CBS national, including Local 12 in Cincinnati, with play-by-play from Andrew Catalon and analysis from Steve Lappas. Byron Larkin and Joe Sunderman will have the radio call on WKRC-AM (550).

  • Series info: Xavier leads the series 21-16, including four straight wins.

Scouting report

Xavier Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East)

Coach: Sean Miller, 18th season (439-160 overall)

Offense: 84.0 ppg

Defense: 75.5 ppg

Projected lineup

Player (Position, Height, Key Stat)

Adam Kunkel (G, 6'4", 10.2 ppg)

Zach Freemantle (F, 6'9", 15.1 ppg)

Colby Jones (G, 6'6", 14.6 ppg)

Souley Boum (G, 6'3", 16.8 ppg)

Jack Nunge (F, 7'0", 14.3 ppg)

Creighton Bluejays (12-8, 6-3 Big East)

Coach: Greg McDermott, 29th season (568-340 overall)

Offense: 77.7 ppg

Defense: 68.3 ppgProjected lineup

Player (Position, Height, Key Stat)

Ryan Kalkbrenner (C, 7'1", 15.0 ppg)

Ryan Nembhard (G, 6'0", 11.5 ppg)

Trey Alexander (G, 6'4", 13.0 ppg)

Baylor Scheierman (G, 6'7", 13.5 ppg)

Arthur Kaluma (F, 6'7", 12.4 ppg)

Players to watch

Ryan Nembhard

Creighton guard Ryan Nembhard averages 11.5 points per game and teamed with fellow guard Trey Alexander for 33 points in the teams' first meeting.
Creighton guard Ryan Nembhard averages 11.5 points per game and teamed with fellow guard Trey Alexander for 33 points in the teams' first meeting.

The lingering storyline right now for Xavier has been the inability to slow down opposing guards. Colby Jones will likely be matched up against Scheierman. That means Boum will have to play solid defense against Nembhard, likely with some help from Desmond Claude off the bench.

Desmond Claude

Desmond Claude is coming off arguably his best game of his Xavier career in the victory over UConn. Now, the question is can he replicate that effort against Creighton.
Desmond Claude is coming off arguably his best game of his Xavier career in the victory over UConn. Now, the question is can he replicate that effort against Creighton.

The freshman just put together his best performance at Xavier earlier this week at UConn. He attacked the basket, took care of the ball, and was a positive factor on defense. The one knock against Claude thus far has been the inability to put together consecutive performances. He has the chance to do that on Saturday and Xavier might need him to.

Keys to the game

Turnovers, rebounding, and getting stops

Winning on the road requires all the little things. If Xavier can play with 10 turnovers or less, win the rebounding battle, and find a way to get stops it will give the Musketeers their best chance at another road victory.

Rankings

KenPom: Xavier (19), Creighton (11)

NET: Xavier (23), Creighton (19)

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Big East: Another tough road test for No. 13 Xavier at Creighton