The Creighton women's basketball team forced 16 turnovers and made six second-half 3-pointers to defeat the Utah Utes 64-56 during its home-opener on Thursday night.
The Bluejays had only two turnovers during the entire 40 minutes and owned a 20-3 advantage in points off turnovers.
Creighton (2-1) shot a mere 26 percent from the field in the first half and made only one 3-point field goal, but shot 46 percent in second half, including 6 of 10 from beyond the arc.
“A win’s a win, especially [because] you have to defend home court,” sophomore guard MC McGrory said, “so any win at home is good.”
Junior guard Marissa Janning led all scorers with 15, while senior forward Alexis Akin-Otiko added 14 and McGrory had 11.
Neither team could find rhythm in the first half, as both teams failed to reach double-digit field goals (Creighton 9, Utah 6).
The Jays led 12-6 early and limited the Utes to only one field goal through their first ten attempts.
Utah used a 9-0 run to take the lead.
Creighton and Utah traded buckets, with the Utes holding onto a two or three-point lead, the rest of the half until the final minute. McGrory ended the opening 20 minutes with a three-point play to give the Jays a 23-21 lead at the break.
Utah used a 9-0 run early in the second half to take a 37-33 lead, but 3-pointers from Akin-Otiko and senior guard Sammy Jensen highlighted a 10-0 Jays run to put them ahead for the rest of the way.
Following the early run, Creighton applied a full-court defense to disrupt the Utes’ ability to set up their half-court offense. The Jays’ tactic worked, forcing 10 second-half turnovers and scoring 12 points off of Utah’s miscues.
Late free throws put Creighton ahead by as many as 12 in the final minute.
Utah hit a three-pointer as time expired to pull the final deficit to eight points.
Freshman forward Bailey Norby tied for the team-high with six rebounds and finished with two steals.
“I just thought Bailey played hard,” coach Jim Flanery said. “I mean this in the nicest way, she’s not the best athlete, but she just plays hard and she plays with intelligence. Especially tonight when we felt like we could press (Utah), she did a great job in the backcourt, and whether she got an offensive rebound or not, she went to the offensive glass.”
Fellow freshman forward Sydney Lamberty tallied seven points and four rebounds.
“I think she’s playing at the right pace,” Flanery said. “We need her to be moderately aggressive; not force plays but also after three or four passes she’s got a green light to be aggressive and play in the same way that Marissa [Janning] and MC [McGrory] and Lex [Akin-Otiko] do.”
Creighton’s bench outscored Utah’s 14-4 and grabbed 17 of the Jays’ 32 total rebounds.
“[The bench] was big tonight and they were big against [South Dakota State],” McGrory said. “It’s really nice to have kids step up coming in off the bench and giving valuable minutes.”
Seven bench players record time Thursday night, including three with more than 13 minutes.
The Jays travel to Storrs, Conn., to face the two-time defending national champion Connecticut Huskies on Sunday. Tip-off is set for noon.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity,” Akin-Otiko said. “I know the way Flan schedules games it’s just great to be able to go and play in great arenas [against] great teams. It’s just going to make you better; you can’t get worse from it.”