A win over one of the conference’s most consistent teams and a career performance for sophomore forward Brianna Rollerson, gave the women’s basketball team (12-10, 5-6 Big East) a two-win weekend to start the second half of the conference season.
The Butler Bulldogs came to Omaha riding an eight-game conference win streak and had notched a 63-58 win over the Bluejays in Indianapolis on Jan. 4, but Creighton used a 20-3 run late in the second half Sunday to beat the Bulldogs 62-55.
The Bulldogs held a three-point advantage at halftime and surged to a nine-point lead early in the second half. Creighton trailed by seven with just more than 12 minutes to
play in the game, but took a 10-point lead with 3:07 remaining.
“I think we showed a lot of composure, sticking to our game plan and playing our own pace and following through,” senior forward Alexis Akin-Otiko said.
The Bulldogs cut the lead to two with just more than a minute remaining, but a timely layup from junior guard Marissa Janning sealed the victory. Janning finished with a game-high 27 points and six rebounds.
Janning claimed her first Big East player of the week honor of the season Monday after averaging 22 points over the weekend.
Akin-Otiko also finished in double-digits Sunday, notching 14 points and four rebounds.
“It’s just a big win,” coach Jim Flanery said. “I’m happy and proud of our kids that we fought the way that we did.”
After losing to Xavier by one in the final minute on Jan. 2, the Bluejays came out with a vengeance on Friday evening, jumping out to an 8-2 lead at the first media timeout behind six points and seven rebounds from Rollerson.
“We played really close to them last game, and we were kind of upset about how that ended, so we knew this was a game that we really had to win,” Rollerson said.
Creighton led 38-28 at the half Friday.
Fueled by 3-point field goals, the Musketeers clawed their way back in the second half, taking a 57-55 lead with just over six minutes to play. The Jays rallied and held a 63-60 advantage with 3:44 remaining.
“I think it was the motivation of [the last game]. Having that in the back of our minds and trying to stop their runs when we could [were keys to success],” Janning said.
Creighton led by as many as 10 late in the game before winning 74-65.
“I’ve watched 10 games or so of [Creighton’s games] here in the last month, and [Friday] may be the best I’ve seen them play,” Xavier coach Brian Neal said. “In some ways, I was pretty impressed that we were in the game.”
Rollerson finished with a career-high 22 points in the win, and added 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
“I thought Bri really kind of flipped the game with a couple of defensive plays,” Flanery said. “I know we’re going to probably talk about her offense, but I just thought she stepped up and made some plays defensively that we need her to make going forward.”
After starting 2-6 in the Big East, Creighton has rallied to win three straight and looks to continue its recent success on a weekend trip to the East Coast. The Jays face the St. John’s Red Storm on Friday before taking on the Seton Hall Pirates on Sunday.
St. John’s sits just ahead of the Bluejays in the conference standings at 6-4 after dropping two straight games. The Red Storm dismantled the Jays in Omaha on Jan. 11, using a strong defensive effort to win 61-38. The Jays shot 23.6 percent from the field in the game and 19.2 percent from beyond the arc.
St. John’s also attempted and made a lot of high-percentage shots. The Red Storm attempted only one 3-point field the entire 40 minutes and shot 74 percent from the field in the second half (17-23).
The Pirates are on top of the Big East at 9-1 and have yet to lose a game at home this season (14-0). Seton Hall’s only loss in conference play came at St. John’s and it has since won seven straight games.
Creighton opened its conference season against the Pirates on Dec. 3, falling 79-74.
Akin-Otiko led the Jays with 22 points during the first meeting. Janning added 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Friday’s game against St. John’s is scheduled for 7 p.m. and Sunday’s game at Seton Hall tips off at 1 p.m.