When Marquette senior guard Markus Howard played on Creighton’s home floor last year, he shattered the school and Big East records with 53 points.
During Howard’s return to CHI Health Center Omaha on Wednesday night, Creighton limited him to 18 points and cruised to a 92-75 victory in a Big East opener.
Junior guard Ty-Shon Alexander covered Howard most of the night and produced 21 points, eight rebounds and six steals to pace the Bluejays (12-2, 1-0) to their eighth win in a row.
Bluejays junior sharpshooter Mitch Ballock drilled 5 3-pointers en route to a game-high 24 points while sophomore point guard Marcus Zegarowski added 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Howard, who entered the night as the nation’s leading scorer at 26.3 points per game, didn’t manage his first basket until 3:40 remained in the first half. He finished 6 of 16 from the field with four turnovers. Fifth-year senior swingman Sacar Anim, and sophomore forward Brendan Bailey also scored 18 points for the Golden Eagles (10-3, 0-1).
Determined not to allow Howard to dominate as he did last season — when he piled up half of Marquette’s points in a 106-104 overtime win — Creighton coach Greg McDermott asked Alexander to stay within reach of Howard whenever the All-American crossed half-court.
Howard only took one shot in the opening 10 minutes — an errant 3-pointer — but he handed out three assists as Marquette clung within 22-17. He picked up his second foul with 9:10 left in the first half and took a seat.
When Howard returned, he scored on four consecutive possessions — nine points in 86 seconds — to bring Marquette within 45-35 with 2:14 left in the first half.
But Creighton’s guard trio of Alexander, Zegarowski and Ballock kept moving the ball and forced Marquette’s defense into scramble mode. The trio combined for 35 points in the first half, and Creighton led 48-38 at the break.
The Bluejays gradually pulled away in the second half as junior forwards Damien Jefferson (17 points) and Denzel Mahoney (10 points) started chipping in as much as the guards.
When Howard picked up his third and fourth fouls 82 seconds apart midway through the half — hitting the bench with 10:50 left — Creighton owned a 75-54 advantage. Marquette never mounted a serious challenge again.
—Field Level Media