Butler falls to Creighton, Martin’s shooting slump continues
OMAHA, Neb. — Maurice Watson Jr. scored 21 points and No. 8 Creighton matched its best start in program history with a 75-64 victory over No. 12 Butler on Wednesday night.
The Bluejays (16-1, 4-1 Big East) rode hot shooting in the first half to build a big lead that Butler (14-3, 3-2) couldn’t overcome with its star Kelan Martin still struggling with his shot.
Watson made 9 of 14 shots and had seven assists but committed a season-high eight turnovers. Khyri Thomas added 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Cole Huff and Justin Patton each had 10 points.
Avery Woodson led the Bulldogs with 14 points.
Butler lost for the first time in five games against Top 25 opponents, and it failed in the bid for a fourth win over a top 10 opponent. All of the losses have come on the road.
The Bluejays led 47-27 at halftime after shooting 60 percent against a Butler team that struggled offensively, no one more than Martin.
Patton and Thomas had a couple of big dunks, with Thomas lobbing to his roommate for the first one. The 7-foot Patton, showing the strength he built while redshirting last season, bumped 6-8, 240-pound Tyler Wideman all the way through the post for another basket.
Thomas and Isiah Zierden hit consecutive 3s to finish a 10-2 spurt for the 20-point lead.
Martin, benched for poor shot selection late in regulation of last weekend’s overtime win over Georgetown, continued to be mired in a shooting slump that had him shooting 28 percent in Big East games through the first half. He went 0 for 8 in the first 20 minutes and put up an air ball from 8 feet in the lane.
Creighton led by as many as 25 points in the second half before the Bulldogs got a burst of energy from Martin, who went to the bench with 2:25 left in the first half and didn’t return until there were 13 minutes left. He hit a mid-range jumper, a tough baseline shot over Thomas and a 3-pointer that cut Creighton’s lead to 15.
Thomas finished with seven points on 3-of-14 shooting, and the Bulldogs never could get the deficit into single digits.
Butler: The Bulldogs are immersed in a front-loaded schedule that has them playing three top 15 teams in a four-game stretch that started with its win over top-ranked Villanova and ends Saturday at home against No. 15 Xavier. Until Martin finds his shot, Butler could struggle.
Creighton: The Bluejays are in a groove since losing to Villanova on New Year’s Eve. Watson decided this was a night he needed to be a scorer, and he was splendid in that role. Patton keeps growing into one of the Big East’s dominant big men.
Butler plays Saturday at home against No. 15 Xavier, which beat the Bulldogs 74-57 in its last visit to Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Creighton hosts Division II Truman State in a game that will count on the record and in the statistics for the Bluejays but won’t be factored into its RPI.