The likely discussion for Creighton's next game will either be for it to bounce back from a loss or tune up for a Big East clash with Villanova. Central to both, however, will be beating Butler.
The 18th-ranked Bluejays head to Indianapolis on Thursday night for a meeting of Big East newcomers, one of which has enjoyed far more success than the other in their new conference.
That disparity was certainly evident in the first meeting Jan. 14 when Creighton (19-4, 9-2) beat Butler (12-12, 2-10) 88-60 in Omaha. The Bluejays shot 55.6 percent and held the Bulldogs to 35.3 with All-American Doug McDermott's 28 points leading the way on 11-of-19 shooting.
McDermott had a similar shooting night Sunday at St. John's, but the result was quite different. McDermott went 10 for 18 with 25 points, right at his average of 25.3, but Creighton's 3-point and free-throw shooting let it down in a 70-65 loss. The Bluejays hit 5 of 22 from long range and 14 of 25 from the foul line.
"It's really going to motivate us," said McDermott, who played his first game at Madison Square Garden and will return next month for the conference tournament. "This is the first time for a lot of us out here in this building, so the emotion was high to start the game. We were really excited and it kind of went away from that a little bit. So we've got to continue to play 40 minutes and not get caught in the crowd or any of that stuff."
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak that started Jan. 20 with a 28-point win at then-No. 4 Villanova, the rematch of which comes Sunday with both teams looking for Big East supremacy. Creighton hit 21 of 35 3-pointers in that win but is 26 of 84 since, including a 25.5 percent mark in the last two.
"We just didn't play our best basketball," McDermott said Sunday. "We missed a lot of free throws and a lot of 3s that we normally make. So you know, we can't look back at it too much. We've just got to move on and continue to play our basketball. We had a couple mistakes defensively. We rebounded well; it just wasn't our game. We've got to get back and get a big win against Butler."
Those have been plentiful. Butler has lost three straight and dropped its last five against ranked opponents, three of which have come this season. The Bulldogs lost for the 10th time in 12 games Tuesday, falling 64-50 at home to Xavier.
Any sort of home-court advantage Butler gained over the years at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse didn't carry over to the Big East. The Bulldogs are 1-5 there in conference play, and they've averaged 51.0 points in their last two.
They shot 34.0 percent and got just 27 points from their starters Tuesday. Reserve freshman Elijah Brown scored 14, Alex Barlow added 11 and top scorer Kellen Dunham (16.8 points per game) matched a career low with two points on 1-of-10 shooting.
"That's basketball. There are ups and downs in seasons," coach Brandon Miller told the school's official website. "You have to be able to handle the good with the bad, and we've had some close games and games that haven't gone our way. We have to keep fighting."