Junior forward Doug McDermott scored 27 points and senior center Gregory Echenique posted a double-double to lead the Creighton Bluejays over the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers 64-42 on Thursday evening at the Devaney Center in Lincoln.
It was a team effort for the Jays, playing in their first true road game of the season in front of a sellout crowd of 13, 368 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half, as the Jays (8-1) found holes in the Husker defense and created more shot opportunities in the second period. Echenique, the reigning Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, collected 12 rebounds to go along with 12 points to pace the Jays.
The game was close in the early stages, featuring physical play by both teams. However on the scoreboard, the Bluejays led for the majority of the contest. The only Husker lead was at 5-4 with 16:57 remaining in the first half; that lead quickly became a deficit for the Huskers as junior forward Ethan Wragge nailed a 3-pointer 20 seconds later to put the Jays in front for good.
In the opening act the defense was stellar for both teams, as the Huskers shot a meager 25 percent from the floor (7-28) compared to an underwhelming 37 percent (10-27) for the Jays. However the Huskers struggled to find a rhythm on the offensive end all evening, while the Jays stuck to their game plan and warmed up in the second half. The Jays’ defense deserves some of the credit for slowing down the Husker attack that was fresh off of wins against Wake Forest University and the University of Southern California. Husker starters Ray Gallegos (5 points) and Andre Almeida (6 points) were non-factors in the game.
“We were a little shaky at first,” McDermott said. “It was a test on the road in front of a packed house, and we got those jitters out at halftime. We moved the ball a lot better and executed our game plan. We did a good job of regrouping in the locker room and came out (in the second half) with a good start.”
In the second half, the Bluejays led by as many as 22 points as they cruised on to their eighth victory of the season. Freshman point guard Austin Chatman, starting in his first true road game, logged a game-high 37 minutes and scored eight points and two assists while always-reliable senior guard Grant Gibbs had an eye-popping 10 assists with only one turnover to complement strong performances from his teammates.
When asked what he thought about Creighton now that he had coached against them, Husker head coach Tim Miles replied:
“One player gets 27 points, another player gets 12 rebounds, and a different player gets 10 assists and then another player gets three 3-pointers. That’s a few pieces to the puzzle. I was really impressed. They’re going to be hard for a lot of people to beat.”
The Jays were forced to play without senior guard Josh Jones, which makes the victory even more impressive. Coach McDermott addressed the media after the game and explained that Jones had blacked out about 20 minutes before the game and was taken by ambulance to a hospital for evaluation. McDermott said that it was difficult for not just the team, but also the coaching staff to remain focused on the basketball game following the unfortunate incident. In Jones’ absence, sophomore guard Avery Dingman, redshirt freshman guard/forward Nevin Johnson and true freshman Andre Yates had expanded roles in Thursday night’s game.
As the game came to a close, the only people remaining in the crowd were wearing blue. There were a good number of Bluejay fans who made the trip to Lincoln, and cheers for Creighton were loud throughout the game. It was a tremendous atmosphere, fueled in the offseason when incoming Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles stated that Nebraska was “the only show in the state.” For at least the next 12 months, the only show in the state title belongs to the men’s and women’s basketball teams of Creighton University.
The No. 13 Bluejays improved to 8-1 on the season, while the Huskers drop to 6-2. This Sunday the Bluejays return to the CenturyLink Center for a nonconference matchup against the University of Akron Zips. Tip-off is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.
|16 Creighton University (8-1)||28||36||64|
|University of Nebraska-Lincoln (6-2)||17||25||42|
Final Team Statistics:
Field Goals: CU-46% NU-32%
Total Rebounds: CU-40 NU-34
Three-Pointers: CU-8 NU-4
Free Throws: CU-10/18 NU-2/6
Turnovers: CU-12 NU-13