(AP) — While Creighton didn’t have much trouble bouncing back from its first defeat, coach Greg McDermott’s team could be tested with a visit to Lincoln.
The No. 16 Bluejays try to avoid a fourth consecutive road loss to Nebraska as these in-state rivals square off Thursday night.
After falling to Boise State 83-70 last Wednesday, Creighton (7-1) regrouped Saturday with an 80-51 rout of Saint Joseph’s, dominating the Hawks in almost every facet of the game.
Junior standout Doug McDermott led the way with 23 points for Creighton, which took a 27-point lead into halftime and never looked back. The Bluejays, who dropped five spots in Monday’s AP poll, held Saint Joseph’s to a season-worst 37.7 percent shooting and forced 17 turnovers.
“It showed a lot of maturity from our team,” Doug McDermott said. “We didn’t get too down on ourselves. We knew a good team like Saint Joseph’s was coming in here and we had to be ready. We sent the nation a statement by what we did, and we’ve got to continue that kind of play.”
The Bluejays now look to keep things going in their first true road game. Creighton, though, hasn’t won at Nebraska (6-1) since pulling out a 50-48 victory Dec. 11, 2004, with its last two losses there coming by a combined seven points.
The Bluejays beat the Cornhuskers 76-66 last Dec. 4, behind 24 points from McDermott, as the home team won for the seventh straight time in this series.
That certainly bodes well for Nebraska, which enters Thursday riding a wave of momentum. After cruising to a 79-63 win at Wake Forest on Nov. 27 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the Huskers beat Southern California 63-51 on Monday.
Junior Ray Gallegos, who notched career highs of 20 points in each of those games while going 10 for 18 from 3-point range, has played a huge role in the Huskers’ success. Picked to finish last in the Big Ten, Nebraska has also received a big boost from seniors Dylan Talley (15.6 ppg) and Brandon Ubel (14.0 ppg).
“I don’t think we’ll raise any eyebrows unless we win on Thursday,” coach Tim Miles said. “We know they’re nationally ranked, they’ve got a great team – team of a lifetime – when you look at all the pieces to the puzzle they have. Greg’s a great coach, Doug’s a great player, but there’s plenty of pieces to go around, too.”
Miles is surely at least partly eluding to Bluejays center Gregory Echenique, who had 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting Saturday after scoring nine against the Broncos. Creighton may want to think about getting the 6-foot-9 senior more looks, as it’s gone 14-1 when he posts at least 15 points.
“We were probably a little too hard on Gregory after the Boise game,” coach McDermott said. “We just see so much more in him than he gives us sometimes.”
The Huskers are off to their best start since also opening 6-1 in 2008, but they haven’t had much luck against ranked teams lately. They were 1-6 versus Top 25 foes last season, dropping the last three by an average of 26.0 points.
“I think you’ll see another step forward come Thursday and it’ll be fun,” Ubel said. “Ranked opponent comes into your place, you’ve got an opportunity to beat them, that’s big-time for us. Hopefully, we can pull it together and get the win.”