Foster scores 19, No. 22 Creighton holds off UMKC 89-82
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Creighton has three days to get ready for No. 9 Wisconsin, and judging by how the 22nd-ranked Bluejays looked in the second half of their season opener against UMKC, they'll need to make the most out of every one of them.
The Bluejays won 89-82 on Friday night, but not before sweating out a comeback attempt that saw the Kangaroos cut a 28-point deficit with 13 minutes left to single digits.
''If we're the team that scored 76 points in about 28 minutes, we'll be fine,'' Creighton coach Greg McDermott said, looking ahead to Tuesday's home game against the Badgers. ''If we're the team that scored 13 in the last 12 minutes, we're in trouble.''
Marcus Foster had 19 points and Maurice Watson Jr. added 17 for the Bluejays, who won their 19th opener in 20 years.
UMKC, picked sixth in the eight-team Western Athletic Conference, missed nine of its first 10 shots but found some rhythm on offense as it turned up the defensive pressure in the second half. Martez Harrison's 3-pointer cut Creighton's lead to 85-74, and Xavier Bishop's 3 finished a 29-10 Kangaroos run that made it 86-77 with 2:08 left.
Harrison, the WAC's active career scoring leader, scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half. Darnell Tillman had 10 points and seven rebounds, and Duane Clark added 10 points for UMKC.
''Creighton is 22 in the country for a reason,'' Kangaroos coach Kareem Richardson said. ''They punched us in the mouth there in the first half, really knocked us off-kilter. To our guys' credit, they did a good job sticking with it in the second half, climbing back in and making it interesting.''
Khyri Thomas added 16 points for Creighton, and 7-foot redshirt freshman Justin Patton finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.
The Bluejays shot 59 percent in the first half but only 40 percent in the second, and they committed 17 turnovers to the Kangaroos' 13.
''It's college basketball in November. It's not going to be as pretty as we all would like,'' McDermott said. ''I would have liked to have slammed the door on them when it was 76-48, but it didn't happen. The positive is we found a way to win the game.''
UMKC: The Kangaroos brought back six seniors from last season's 12-win team. Clark is a promising freshman who made five of his first six shots, and the 6-8, 250-pound Tillman was 5 for 5. Rest assured, this is the toughest opponent they'll face until visiting No. 3 Kansas on Dec. 6
Creighton: McDermott wasn't happy with the way his team played in the second half, but the Bluejays can build off this. They have capable scorers all over the floor, a point guard in Watson who can find them and perhaps a budding star in Patton.
Creighton probably won't earn a promotion from No. 22 because of the way it played in the second half, but neither should the Bluejays drop out of the Top 25.
Patton had three dunks in his first college game, with two on lob passes on back-to-back possessions in the first half. He also tried a behind-the-back pass to Foster in the paint in the second half, but Foster couldn't convert it into a basket.
The Bluejays committed 17 turnovers, with seven by Watson. He was one of only three Big East players to turn over the ball more than 100 times last season, and reducing turnovers was his priority coming into this season.
''Having seven, regardless of how many minutes I played or whatever the scenario, is unacceptable,'' he said. ''I didn't give us a chance to get shots up. When I turned it over, they would go on a run, a 3-on-1 or a 3-on-2. That's where I need to get better.''
UMKC plays its home opener against Drake on Tuesday.
Creighton hosts No. 9 Wisconsin on Tuesday.
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