OMAHA, Nebraska — Fifth-ranked Xavier found itself down 17 points early against Creighton, and the way the Musketeers were shooting and Bluejays point guard Maurice Watson was dominating, there really was no chance for a comeback.
Xavier was an icy 1 for 21 from 3-point range and shot a season-low 30 percent overall in its 70-56 loss Tuesday night.
"I really felt like there was no readiness to play on our part," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "We were miserable from 3. It's hard to overcome a 1-for-21 shooting night from the 3-point line. But it was our readiness to play, our lack of readiness to play, that ultimately put Creighton on top."
Watson, all 5-foot-10 of him, roamed all game in the land of the giants, making shifty moves that rendered Xavier's big men helpless as he snaked to the basket for layup after layup. He finished with a career-high 32 points while leading the Bluejays to their biggest win of the season.
"He's as good as we've played against all year," Mack said. "He completely dominated and controlled the game."
The Bluejays (16-9, 7-5 Big East) used an early 16-0 run to take a 17-point lead 9 minutes into the game and then held off the Musketeers after they pulled within five with 6 minutes left.
Watson scored 22 points in the second half, and the transfer from Boston University finished off the Musketeers with a bank-in high off the glass, a layup and then a steal and layup to make it 66-53 with 1:54 to play.
Xavier (21-3, 9-3), which had its five-game win streak end, got 17 points from Jalen Reynolds and 14 from James Farr, but emerging star Trevon Bluiett was held to four points.
Bluiett missed all six of his 3-point attempts. J.P. Macura was the only Xavier player to make a 3, with his ending Creighton's 16-0 run in the first half.
"Creighton always packs the paint and does an excellent job of flooding to help, and they know all your sets," Mack said. "But you've got to make some. I mean, you've got to make some. Geez, you've got to make some."
Creighton led 47-29 when Watson, a full foot shorter than the 6-10 Farr, took him to the hole for a left-handed layup.
Xavier at that point went from man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone, and the Bluejays missed seven straight shots and committed a turnover as the Musketeers trimmed the lead to 10. The zone flummoxed the Bluejays until Watson drove the lane for an easy basket to make it 50-38.
"It's not easy attacking that 1-3-1 with their length and size," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said, "and he was able to get in some crevices."
It was 55-50 with 6 minutes left, but Creighton was ahead by 10 points again when Watson swished a jumper from the top of the key and Cole Huff hit a 3 from the corner.
The Bluejays were without guard Khyri Thomas, who had an undisclosed injury. James Milliken started in his place and gave his team an immediate spark, scoring seven of Creighton's first 16 points. Milliken's 3-pointer started the 16-0 run that put the Bluejays up 21-4.
"We wanted to be playing meaningful games in February that have postseason implications and tonight was one of those," McDermott said. "If we lose tonight, Saturday's game (at Marquette) doesn't mean as much. We won a game that mattered, and that makes the next few games matter, so we have to try to build on what was a great win tonight."
SLOW START MYSTIFIES
Mack couldn't understand why it took so long for his team, which trailed by 17 points early, to show signs of life.
"We didn't play with the urgency we needed to from minute one," he said. "Why is the game more important when you're down 17 points?"
Xavier: Musketeers are 9-2 away from Cintas Center and 6-2 in true road games. ... Has allowed an average of 66.7 points in its 21 wins compared with 88.0 in its two losses. ... Bluiett had scored in double figures in 22 of the previous 23 games. ... Came in having made more free throws (449) than its opponents have attempts (436).
Creighton: Entered 1-5 against Top 25 opponents this season and 3-28 all-time against top-five opponents. ... Isaiah Zierden has made at least one 3-pointer in 13 straight games.
Xavier visits Butler on Saturday.
Creighton visits Marquette on Saturday.