No. 25 Creighton 97, Houston Baptist 62
OMAHA, Neb. (AP)
The win came after Creighton put in a hard week of practice to work out a number of kinks following a nine-point loss at St. Joseph's on Dec. 10. With a road game at Tulsa on Monday and Northwestern visiting on Thursday, the Bluejays wouldn't have been satisfied with anything less than a dominating performance against their overmatched opponent from the Great West Conference.
''We knew we couldn't let the same thing happen as last week,'' Echenique said. ''We had to make a statement. We have two big games coming up, and we had to start now.''
McDermott, who came in as the nation's No. 2 scorer at 24 points a game, had his eighth straight 20-point game for the Bluejays (8-1).
But Echenique was an even bigger problem for the Huskies (4-7). The 6-foot-9, 270-pounder needed only 15 minutes to record his first double-double of the season. Echenique also blocked five shots and threw down two big dunks.
''You can always push yourself more,'' Echenique said. ''When you win, you get used to it, and sometimes you forget that you can do more. Losing was like a shock. It was a wakeup call, and we had to go back to work.''
Creighton coach Greg McDermott said the way Echenique played was the way he should have been performing all season. Echenique had 10 points and five rebounds in the loss at St. Joseph's.
''I was really hard on him for a couple days, just on his effort and concentration and his ability to impact the game more than he was impacting the game,'' Greg McDermott said. ''He got some extra work in with my coaching staff, just keeping the ball a little higher, being more aggressive and using his lower body. He brought what he had done on the practice floor onto the game floor tonight, and that was very encouraging to see.''
Art Bernardi and reserve Anthony Hill each had 16 points to lead Houston Baptist, which was playing a ranked opponent for the first time since facing then-No. 15 Michigan in November 2009. Hill had 11 points in the first half.
''Those guys came prepared for us. They're just real strong,'' Huskies coach Ron Cottrell said. ''We had no matchups that went our way, and it snowballed as the night went on. If not for Anthony Hill in the first half, that game could have been real, real ugly.''
Creighton went on two 10-0 runs and led by as many as 29 points while building a 46-23 halftime lead. The Bluejays opened the second half on a 12-2 run and led by 39 points with 10 minutes left.
The Bluejays clamped down on the Huskies, who were scoring 77 points a game and had five players averaging in double figures.
''The most encouraging thing from my perspective was defensively,'' Greg McDermott said. ''Houston Baptist, the one thing they had done consistently all year was score points. They scored on three out of 20 possessions to start the game and three of 14 to start the second half. The message we attempted to send in practice was heard loud and clear, and I thought we competed a little harder.''
Creighton was up 12-1 before Houston Baptist made its first field goal almost six minutes into the game after 10 straight misses. The Huskies didn't hit their second field goal for another 5 1/2 minutes. By then they were down 28-8.
The Bluejays held a 52-34 rebounding advantage and limited the Huskies to 36-percent shooting.
''When we were out at St. Joe's, we didn't have the defensive efficiency we're capable of,'' Ethan Wragge said. ''We really focused on that in practice this week, and wanted to come out early and set the tone. Our first five did a good job of that.''
Doug McDermott, who had six rebounds, missed on his bid to become the first Creighton player since Benoit Benjamin in 1984-85 to record five straight double-doubles.
The Bluejays won their 65th straight home game against a team .500 or worse. Twelve of the 14 Creighton players who saw action scored.
''That's really fun for our whole team,'' said Ethan Wragge, who had 10 points and eight rebounds. ''Those guys work just as hard as everyone else in practice. They come early and stay late. When the fans get to see their hard work, it's really cool, and it's something our whole team enjoys.''