The Creighton women’s basketball team’s 66-59 win over the Southern Illinois University Salukis Saturday afternoon at D.J. Sokol Arena was one that set several marks.
First and foremost, the win gave Creighton its second-straight conference victory and evened the team’s season record to 8-8, 2-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Second, the win marked Bluejay’s head coach Jim Flanery’s 100th career home win. He is only the second women’s basketball coach in Creighton history, Bruce Rasmussen being the first, to reach this milestone. Flanery won his 100th home game in his tenth season at Creighton, while Rasmussen accomplished the feat in his eleventh year as head coach.
Finally, the loss by Southern Illinois (3-13, 0-6 MVC) marks its 24th straight loss against conference opponents, which ties a Missouri Valley Conference record.
The Salukis winless conference stretch, which began with a loss to Missouri State University in the Salukis’ conference opener in the 2010-2011 season, may imply that this game was an easy win for the Bluejays, but the Valley victory proved to be anything but.
“I knew [this game] was going to be a tough one, and [Southern Illinois] really competed the whole time,” Flanery said.
Early in the game the Salukis, who were searching for their first conference win since March 4, 2010, showed a great ability to break Creighton’s full-court press, sink 3-pointers and outrebound the Bluejays on both ends of the floor. This, combined with Creighton’s cold shooting, resulted in the Jays only scoring four points in the opening five minutes. Southern Illinois would have an eight-point advantage at the 15:12 mark of the first half.
“We weren’t as focused as we need to be for the entire 40 minutes,” Flanery said.
The Bluejays found a way to bounce back from the slow start, claiming their first lead of the game on an 8-0 run that was capped off by a pair of made free throws by sophomore forward Sarah Nelson around the midway point of the first half.
Nelson would finish the game with 10 points and 11 rebounds; her fifth double-double of the season.
The key player of the game for the Bluejays proved to be sophomore guard Carli Tritz, who scored eight of Creighton’s first 10 points in the second half.
“I thought in the second half [Tritz] did a lot of good things,” Flanery said. “I liked the versatility of her baskets. It wasn’t just one way; she got an offensive rebound, she basket cut a couple of times, she had a couple pull-up [jumpers].”
Tritz scored a game high 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds despite fouling out with over five minutes remaining in the game.
Picking up where Tritz left off, junior guard Ally Jensen and sophomore guard McKenzie Fujan combined for three 3-pointers late in the second half. The last of which gave Creighton a 12-point lead, a margin Southern Illinois would not overcome.
The women’s basketball team goes on the road next weekend for conference play. The first game comes on Friday at Indiana State University, and the second game will be played at Illinois State University on Sunday.