LOUISVILLE, Ky. –– The Creighton men’s basketball team’s magical run came to a dramatic end in the Elite Eight with a 57-56 loss to No. 18 ranked and fifth-seeded San Diego State on Sunday afternoon in the South Regional Final at the KFC YUM! Center in Louisville, Ky.
The Bluejays end their season in the Elite Eight with a 24-13 record.
With the win, San Diego State (31-6) advances to the Final Four for the first time in school history and will battle No. 25 FAU in the national semifinals at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on Saturday, April 1. A start time for the national televised contest will be announced on Sunday evening.
Down 56-54 with 34.2 seconds left in the game, senior Baylor Scheierman intercepted a San Diego State inbounds pass and put in a layup to tied the game at 56-56 with 32.4 seconds remaining. However, a Bluejay foul with 1.2 seconds left sent Darrion Trammell to the line for two free throws. Trammell missed the first one off the back iron before before sinking the second one. A baseball pass by Scheierman bounced off the hands of sophomore Arthur Kaluma out of bounds as time expired, ending the Bluejay season.
A back-and forth affair early saw the Bluejays turn a 5-4 deficit into a 17-9 lead on the heels of a 13-4 run. Back-to-back layups by Ryan Kalkbrenner sparked the surge while a pair of jumpers from Trey Alexander and Ryan Nembhard gave Creighton the early advantage with 11:32 remaining in the opening half.
San Diego State answered with a 7-2 spurt of their own on a three from Trammell and a pair of jumpers from Matt Bradley and Trammell to cut the Bluejays lead to 19-16, before a three from Scheierman and a pair of baskets from Kalkbrenner pushed Creighton’s lead back out to eight at 26-18 with 6:36 remaining in the first half.
The Aztecs, however, refused to give ground, scoring 10 of the next 12 points to level the game at 28-28 with 2:44 left, before a jumper by Scheierman and a three by Arthur Kaluma gave Creighton a 33-28 lead at the break.
Kalkbrenner led the way with 10 points, while Schiereman and Nembhard each contributed seven in the first half, as the Bluejays shot 53.8 percent (14-of-26) from the field. San Diego State got a team-high nine points from Lamont Butler and seven from Trammell as the Aztecs shot 43.3 percent (13-of-30) from the floor.
Coming out of the locker room both teams traded blows as San Diego State hit its first three shots of the half to take a 34-33 lead. Creighton, however, answered with an 8-0 run behind a layup by Kaluma, three free throws from Scheierman and an and-one dunk from Kalkbrenner to regain a 41-34 advantage with 13:14 remaining in the game.
San Diego State responded with a 10-4 run after a flagrant foul was called on the Jays. Butler sparked the Aztecs’ surge with a triple from the left wing before a jumper from Trammell gave San Diego State a 46-45 lead with 6:45 left, setting up a dramatic finish between the Bluejays and Aztecs in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
Butler led all scorers with a game-high 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, while Trammell added 12 points for the Aztecs. As a team, San Diego State shot 37.9 percent (25-of-66) from the field, including just 3-of 13 from the three-point line. Kalkbrenner led three Bluejays in double figures with 17 points, while Kaluma and Schiereman collected 12 points each. The Bluejays shot 22-of-55 (40.0 percent) from the floor, including a 2-for-17 mark from behind the arc and 10-of-11 mark from the free-throw line.
Fans are welcome to come congratulate the Bluejays on a great season as they return to campus tonight at approximately 9:45 p.m. The team will arrive at the parking lot just south of Morrison Stadium.
NOTES: Creighton forward Arthur Kaluma is the brother of San Diego State guard Adam Seiko … Creighton made a three-pointer for the 985th straight game … Baylor Scheierman had a three-pointer for the 47th straight game dating to last year, and extended his Creighton record streak to 37 in a row … Ryan Kalkbrenner has scored 10 points or more in each of CU’s last 21 games, the longest streak by any Bluejay since Marcus Foster did it 33 games in a row in 2017-18 … Baylor Scheierman became CU’s first player to surpass 300 rebounds in a season since Benoit Benjamin in 1984-85 … Trey Alexander moved over 500 points this season … Ryan Nembhard tied Grant Gibbs for most assists by a Creighton sophomore in one season with 176 … Ryan Kalkbrenner (1,167) moved past Ethan Wragge (1,155) and Dane Watts (1,152) on Creighton’s all-time scoring chart … San Diego State qualifies for its first Final Four ever .. Creighton played in its program-record 11th neutral site game of the season … Creighton was making its second all-time appearance in the final eight, having also done so in 1941 when only eight teams were in the tournament … Every player on the Creighton team has remaining eligibility … Single-tournament program records set or tied for an NCAA Tournament include Baylor Scheierman for three-pointers made (10), Ryan Kalkbrenner for points (80) and field goals made (32) … Creighton set single-NCAA Tournament program records for points (299), three-pointers made (25), blocked shots (14), free throws made (62) .. Creighton finished the season shooting a school-record 78.3 percent at the line … Ryan Kalkbrenner and Baylor Scheierman were named to the All-South Regional Team.
2023 All-South Regional Team
Ryan Kalkbrenner – Creighton
Lamont Butler – SDSU
Darrion Trammell – SDSU
Baylor Scheirman – Creighton
Tasan Evbuomwan – Princeton
MOP- Darrion Trammell – SDSU
Sunday, March 26, 2023
Louisville, Kentucky, USA
KFC Yum! Center
Elite 8 Postgame Media Conference
San Diego State-57, Creighton-56
GREG McDERMOTT: First off, congrats to Coach Dutcher and the San Diego State program. Obviously we’ve played them a lot for two teams that aren’t anywhere close geographically to each other and, as I said yesterday, shared a charter with them.
So we’re well aware of the character with which that program is built on. We have tremendous respect for them, and we had a game that came down to the very end last year and went into overtime, and we had a game that came down to the very end today. Fortunately, we won last year, and we were a little short this year.
It doesn’t take away. I won’t allow it to take away from what these guys have accomplished, how they’ve galvanized not just a campus community or an Omaha community, but really anybody that’s had anything to do with Creighton that’s been touched by Creighton in any way in their lives, they’ve stopped what they were doing the last couple Friday and Sundays, and they came on this ride with us.
To witness how these guys represent the name on the front of their jersey is really what sports is all about. You win with class, and you lose with class. That’s what we’re going to do.
We had opportunities. Defensively, obviously, we held them to 37%. It’s good enough. We had some decent looks at the basket the second and were unable to knock them down.
All the credit goes to San Diego State, and it’s on us that we can’t — that we didn’t quite get it done. Not anyone else.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. R2, I won’t ask you to speak on officiating, but the final call, just waiting on the time to see the results, just describe that feeling to me knowing that your season could end at the free-throw line.
RYAN NEMBHARD: It’s a tough feeling. You work so hard all year, and it comes down to a play like that, I don’t know. I think we could have done a little bit more to make it a game that didn’t have to go down to that, but it’s a tough way to lose.
Q. Your wrist, it seemed like you were tending to your wrist late in that second half. Did that have any effect down the stretch, or what ended up happening with your wrist?
RYAN NEMBHARD: I mean, yeah, I got bumps and bruises, but everybody has got bumps and bruises. It’s late in the year. Everybody is hurt. Everybody is hurting. So I’m not going to say that is a reason we lost. Things happen. We fell short to SDSU.
Q. Greg, two parts. Both on the officiating. One is I’m curious what your thoughts were on the call on Ryan Nembhard. Obviously, that proved to be the decisive basket. Do you think that was indicative of the way the game was called today? And the second part is I’m curious if you were given an explanation at the very end of the game.
GREG McDERMOTT: The only part I’ll answer is, no, I wasn’t given an explanation. They just didn’t think there was any time left. There was no call on the floor on whose ball it was, so I’m not sure what they were reviewing.
But with all due respect, Pete, two teams played their tails off. Officiating is part of the game. We’re not going to go there. We lost a game because we didn’t do enough, and San Diego State did.
Q. Coach, really limited run for Farabello tonight. What was the strategy behind that personnel-wise?
GREG McDERMOTT: I’ll probably watch the film and maybe regret that. You know, these — I’ve rode these five hard all year long, and when you get to this point, you know, the old saying, you dance with the one that brought you.
You know, these guys have done a terrific job, and Francisco has been terrific as well, but with the longer time-outs, and actually, you know, you have an extra time-out there too where it’s a full time-out, and I was asking them a lot if they needed a blow, and when they tell me no, I trust them.
These guys earned the right to be on the floor when this game was decided.
Q. For Ryan. You were the defender on the last play. What was your view of what happened?
RYAN NEMBHARD: I don’t know. They came off a little screen. He got downhill and tried to make a floater. I tried to make a rearview contest. Called a foul, so yeah.
Q. Baylor, that bucket with about, I don’t know, 20 seconds left, the steal and the layup, it felt like that is probably what we would have remembered from this game had you guys won. Just describe to me what was going through your head throughout all of the reviews and all the time you guys spent waiting on the end result.
BAYLOR SCHEIERMAN: Yeah, well, we just wanted to make the tough catch — or make the catch tough, excuse me, and, you know, they weren’t bringing anybody else back. It was just me and that guy, and he was kind of posting me up yelling at the inbounder to throw it, throw it.
As soon as he let it go, I knew he was throwing it deep, and so I just released and was able to beat him to the other side, and luckily he jumped and just whiffed totally, and it just dropped right in my arms, and I was able to lay it in and tie the game up.
Q. Greg, an interesting strategy point at the end of the game. You had a foul. You had one to give. It also negated the shot clock, which maybe gave them a little bit extra time. I wonder if you can walk through the decision-making process there?
GREG McDERMOTT: I think it was two seconds difference. They had their play set up. They were going into a high ball screen situation, and I just felt with six seconds left we kind of knew what they had in their bag from a side out of bounds standpoint, and we thought we could get into a situation where it was going to be a last-second deal.
Had there been four seconds or more, I probably wouldn’t have done it. We thought with under three that it was probably the right play.
But, you know, it’s coaching. Sometimes what you decide to do is right; sometimes what you decide to do is wrong. But had they gone in and laid it in and we not fouled, I would be kicking myself for that one too.
Q. Coach, I know that the way that the season went this year, this is obviously not the way that you wanted it to end. Just what you could say on reflecting on this season and the effort that you have seen in your guys and just what Creighton has brought to this country? It’s a terrible way to see it end, but it’s been a beautiful story up until this point.
GREG McDERMOTT: Yeah, what transpired this season has been a wonderful journey to be part of. You know, you have ebbs and flows to every season. This was the most adversity that was — in my coaching career that was ever thrown at a good team, a team that really had to do special things. Yet, they were relatively young.
R2 and Trey and Art, when we went through that in late November and December, they played 37, 38 college games. So to watch them navigate that adversity and watch them grow and watch Kalk and Reef and Farabello and Baylor, all these guys worked together to get through that, was really rewarding.
I knew then that this team had a chance because they weren’t going to let anything tear them apart. Coaching, that’s what it’s all about. You want your team to grow. You want your team to get better. You want your team to come close to reaching your potential. You want your team to be playing the best basketball at the end of the season.
And we checked all those boxes, and we did it in a way that where they exhibited the character and the people that they are throughout the process.
These guys are people for others, and when you have a team of guys like that, individuals like that, it’s a beautiful thing to coach. I’ll always be indebted to them. As I told them in the locker room, I really appreciate that I had the opportunity to coach them.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
131254-1-1222 2023-03-26 21:10:00 GMT
Sunday, March 26, 2023
Louisville, Kentucky, USA
KFC Yum! Center
San Diego State Aztecs
Coach Brian Dutcher
Elite 8 Postgame Media Conference
San Diego State-57, Creighton-56
BRIAN DUTCHER: First of all, congratulations to Coach McDermott and Creighton. They’ve got a really good team, and we were separated by one point tonight. If there was time on the clock, who knows what could have happened.
But we’re grateful to be advancing. I told the team in the locker room — they had the music going. I walked in, and I told them, turn it down. I said, either sing, dance, or get out of the way. Aztecs are going to the Final Four.
Here we are. We’re making the next step, and it’s something we’ve always talked about, and I’m sure there were people that doubted we could do it, but we never doubted for a minute. Not to say it’s easy to get there or that we would ever get there, but we’re there now, and we’re going to go and try to win the thing.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Darrion, when you are standing at the free-throw line kind of knowing what is at stake, can you just sort of walk us through what you’re thinking when you get there and then after the first one missed?
DARRION TRAMMELL: Just having the utmost confidence in myself. I feel like I’ve shot probably 1,000 free throws in the last week. So at the end of the day, I feel like I put in the work to be able to step up and have the confidence that I was going to make them.
Q. Coach, before the game we saw you talking to Coach McDermott and embracing before the game started. Talk to us about what it’s like to coach against a friend like that.
BRIAN DUTCHER: It’s always hard when you go against a friend because, as much as I celebrate winning, if you don’t feel empathy for a friend, you’re not a true friend. So I’m grateful to win, but I felt bad for Greg and his team because they’re a Final Four team also.
But with the one-and-done situation, the volatility of this tournament, we were fortunate enough to go, and I feel bad for a really good Creighton team.
Q. Darrion, I wonder how much pressure you felt on the foul, whether you expected it to be called and whether it had any impact in your shot?
DARRION TRAMMELL: I wouldn’t say so. I feel like I still had a good look. The refs made their call. They called it, and I got an opportunity to knock down free throws to win the game for my team.
Q. For Darrion, two questions. Number one, were you surprised that they called that foul in that part of the game? I mean, you’ve been in a lot of close games this year, and they’ve swallowed their whistles in a lot of good games.
DARRION TRAMMELL: I wouldn’t say I was surprised. I think I got fouled, but it was up to the refs to decide. Even if they didn’t call it, we were going to lace them up and get ready for an overtime.
Q. After you missed the first one and you are getting ready to shoot the second one, you take a deep breath and exhale, which you don’t normally do, I don’t think. What were you thinking at that point?
DARRION TRAMMELL: That the moment wasn’t too big for me. Through everything I’ve been through, I feel like the opportunity was just set there for me. It was God’s timing. I just had to believe in that.
Just having that confidence that, yeah, I missed the first one, but I definitely wasn’t going to miss the second one.
Q. Of each of your players that came in, you know, they were in for more than ten minutes. Just how much confidence does that give you at this stage of the season that you are able to have those guys come in and you can turn it to just about anybody on your bench as you are heading into the Final Four?
BRIAN DUTCHER: Yeah, this is truly riding the guys that are playing the best. It’s the end of the game. Guys that have played the best for the majority of those 40 minutes are in at the end, and that’s what we had. Then obviously we have offensive/defensive substitutions at times, but I’ve talked about the depth being our greatest strength.
Depth isn’t a strength unless they embrace it, and this team embraces it.
Q. For Arop and Coach Dutcher. The two baskets that you made late to put your team ahead, what was behind that? Were you just feeling like if you had the ball and had the chance that you were going to take it, or was it called, or what? For Coach, just how your thinking went into that sequence?
AGUEK AROP: That’s where we had the advantage today, was at the four spot ducking in with Darrion or Demar coming off ball screens. When I got in, I just — I mean, I’ve done that 1,000 times throughout the season, so it was just another shot.
Obviously, there’s a lot more weight to it, but I wasn’t thinking like that. I was just thinking staying in rhythm and getting that shot up. Yeah, just putting my team up front.
BRIAN DUTCHER: This is from a young guy that wasn’t going to play basketball two years ago. Was going to give it up because of injuries. To come back and play on this stage and make the baskets to ascend us to a Final Four is a great story.
Q. Coach, so in the first half Nathan Mensah was kind of having a little trouble guarding Kalkbrenner, but then in the second half he came out and had one of the best defensive halves that he has had in this tournament. What do you have to say to his defense against one of the better centers in this tournament right now?
BRIAN DUTCHER: I mean, when you are playing a really good center like Kalkbrenner, he is going to score some baskets, and you just try to make it as hard as you can on him. So I thought Nate, as a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, made it hard.
Those shots could have easily gone in. They didn’t, and that’s the difference between advancing and not advancing.
Q. Briefly, building off that for Coach or Arop, any adjustments specifically to account for Kalkbrenner in the second half?
BRIAN DUTCHER: We just didn’t want to show him angles. We played behind him a lot. Because he is so big, if he show him an angle, he drop-steps. I thought at least he had to score over a body. You know, we didn’t give him the angles to throw over the top or drop-step. We stayed behind him with an arm up and just try to made him score over the top of us. He is capable of doing that, but we were fortunate that he missed a few.
Q. Then for Lamont. You guys shoot 38% from the field. You’re 8 for 11. What was working for you?
LAMONT BUTLER: I was getting to the — just getting to my in the mid-range. I was knocking those down. Shots I hit all year, shots I worked on. I had some open looks from three that I took, and I was fortunate to make it. I’m just glad they went in.
Q. Question for Dutch. Creighton scored a season low 23 points in that second half. Where did that 20 minutes rank for you guys this season in terms of performance on the defensive side?
BRIAN DUTCHER: Obviously with what was at stake, it was incredible. And just Darrion, Lamont, the constant ball pressure they put on, that even a ball screen that usually leads to baskets, everything had to be earned tonight.
And they made some important plays, but there was nothing for free tonight. Everything was hard to get for both teams. It was hard for us to score, but, you know, it was just a war of attrition, and we came out on top.
Q. Aguek, what does it mean to get this regional title against your hometown team?
AGUEK AROP: I mean, it’s special. I grew up watching Creighton go to tournament and play and just being a fan of Creighton. Obviously they’re a really good team, and so being able to — at least my final year — after losing last year and being able to come back this year and play against them and beat them, it’s special, you know.
I’m from Omaha, but I don’t (laughing) — I don’t feel that bad for Omaha. This is for San Diego. The people that are with me, all the people from south Omaha, all my family, all my close people, they were supporting me, they were behind me. That’s all that mattered.
Q. Brian, on the replay when the game actually ended, it looked like you had a pen in your hand drawing up a play. I’m just wondering, the guys celebrate, you have to pull them back, and then there’s about a two-minute delay. You don’t know whose ball it’s going to be. I’m just wondering if can you walk through that whole end sequence. It was a little bizarre.
BRIAN DUTCHER: I think I talked for ten minutes. I don’t know if anybody heard 30 seconds (laughing): Well, if it’s their ball and more than .4, then we have to play straight; and if it’s .3, we’re going to surround the rim and not let them lob; if it’s our ball, we’re about to throw deep where we can get it in and touch it; hold on, hold on, who is in the game?
You know, it was controlled madness. You know, I’m glad there was no time left because Creighton — last team to have the ball would have had a chance to win.
Q. For Coach as well as the student-athletes, this is the first time that San Diego State has ever made it to the Final Four, and it’s the first time that the Mountain West has ever been represented. Just what does it mean to be sitting in history right now?
BRIAN DUTCHER: Well, it’s a vision Coach Fisher had all those years ago when he came to the Mesa, and we recruited and told people this is what we were going to do. They all thought it was just recruiting talk, but here we sit.
So thank you for Coach Fisher for building a great foundation for our university, for supporting us and for these young guys for believing in that vision and making it come true.
AGUEK AROP: I think we picked up where all the guys that came before us left off. Going back to Brandon Heath and Malcolm Thomas, Billy White, even recently Jordan Schakel, Matt Mitchell, KJ Feagin, all those guys. We’re just blessed to be able to pick up where they left off and just to really represent them and the city of San Diego.
Q. Dutch, they were 2 of 17 on threes. This is the fourth straight game in this tournament where teams have not even come close to their season averages. How much of that is scheme and close-outs and high hands, and how much is your physicality and just sapping the legs out of them, and shooting is so much legs that even when they get an open look, they don’t have the legs?
BRIAN DUTCHER: Like I said, it was tough to score today. Both teams were tired. It’s been a lot of basketball been played, and just we ended up winning the game on the inside, throwing it down low and trying to get towards the basket. And they tried to do the same thing. Kalkbrenner had a couple of looks obviously, and they tried to get downhill too.
This late in the season on tired legs neither team shot the ball particularly well, but we made enough plays and were tough-minded. You know, we’re a defensive-first team. Everybody knows that about us, and our defense carries us.
Q. If I could ask the players, not Darrion, about what Darrion means to this team. This is two games in a row in the last two days that the ball was in his hands at the critical moments.
LAMONT BUTLER: Darrion is a big-time player for our team. You guys seen the scoring outbreaks he had the last couple of games, but it’s really the defensive side, the pressure he puts on the point guards. And we love him. We need him, and we needed him tonight. We just are glad to have him on our team.
AGUEK AROP: Yeah, just to add on, Darrion is a special player. We’ve been with him all year, and we’ve seen him do what he did these past two games 100 times over the practices and even games.
To see him break out, it’s no surprise to us, but it does make us happier to see him scoring and really leading us because, man, this man puts in the work. He came from Seattle, overlooked, and for him to step up and do what he did for us is special. We all love him for that. Even if he didn’t do it, we still love him. He knows that.
Q. Brian, kind of a two-part question. Given the way the game ended, did you expect that the officials would swallow their whistle at the end? And, second part, what do you think about Coach McDermott biting his tongue and not complaining about the officiating?
BRIAN DUTCHER: It’s hard. That’s what we all do is have some grace in losing even though we may not agree with the call. You can’t do anything about it. So he is a class act. So I’m sure deep down he felt they should have had an opportunity. It didn’t happen.
You have to remember, I was at Michigan in 1989 where people questioned whether Rumeal Robinson was fouled, and he made two free-throws, and we won a national title. So this is not the first time fouls have been called at the end of NCAA Tournament games.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
131256-1-1222 2023-03-26 21:40:00 GMT