No. 15 Gonzaga looks to keep building vs. No. 25 Creighton

Creighton and Gonzaga are not Power 5 programs, but have the talent and coaching to be just as powerful.

The teams, once considered Cinderellas in the NCAA Tournament, meet Friday night in Spokane, Wash., with the opportunity to add to their resumes of impressive victories.

Creighton, of the Big East, is one of three teams with multiple Top 25 victories this season, joining Duke and Texas A&M. Creighton beat No. 23 UCLA last week after topping No. 20 Northwestern on Nov. 15.

The No. 25 Bluejays lost to No. 22 Baylor 65-59 in the championship game of the 2017 Hall of Fame Classic last week.

Gonzaga, of the West Coast Conference, nearly went 3-0 in the PK80 Invitational last week in Portland with its only loss a double-overtime thriller to No. 7 Florida. The No. 15 Bulldogs beat Ohio State by 27 points and held on to beat Texas in overtime.

Both teams enter the game coming off big victories against lesser opponents.

The Bulldogs (6-1) defeated Incarnate Word 103-68 on Wednesday in Spokane behind reserve forward Rui Hachimura’s 18 points. Zach Norvell Jr. added 17, Josh Perkins scored 16 and Jacob Larsen 14 for the Gonzaga.

“We did what we had to do,” coach Mark Few said of the win over UIW. “We played with good energy. We got after them on the defensive side from the jump.”

Creighton (5-1) was led by forward Martin Krampelj’s career-high 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting in a 103-66 victory over SIU Edwardsville on Saturday.

Khyri Thomas had 17 points and Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster had 15. Kaleb Joseph added 12 points and three assists in 11 minutes off the bench, and Ronnie Harrell Jr. tallied 11 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Creighton shot 58.3 percent for the game and drained 12 3-pointers. The Bluejays won the rebound battle 44-29 and dished 27 assists on 35 field goals.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect today,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said after the win. “We just played three ranked teams all away from home. I just think that takes a lot of wind out of your sails.

“Factor in the Thanksgiving holiday in between and I wasn’t sure how we’d come out. I wasn’t pleased with the effort coming out on defense but I was pleased with the contribution from a lot of places. We were more locked in as the game went on.”

Gonzaga suffered a key injury against Incarnate Word with freshman wing starter Corey Kispert (10.4 points a game) limping off the floor late in the first half with a sprained left ankle. Kispert said after the game that he fully intends to play against Creighton.

Few is not thrilled with having to play another quality opponent in such a short period of time after having played in the grueling three games in three days of the PK80 tournament last week.

“It’s just the way scheduling is,” Few said. “You have to cram all these games in at certain times and it’s never perfect. It is, as they say, what it is. We’ll make the best of it and be ready to go on Friday.”