Texas-Arlington-Creighton Preview

Creighton hasn’t been the most gracious of hosts to visitors of Omaha, trouncing them with relative ease.

Coming off another emphatic victory, the 25th-ranked Bluejays look to continue their home dominance Monday night against UT Arlington.

Creighton (8-2) is in the midst of a stretch of five consecutive home games leading up to Christmas break and its Big East opener at Seton Hall on Dec. 28. It opened its residency with a 111-68 thrashing of North Dakota on Dec. 5 and made quick work of another overmatched opponent Friday, pounding Maryland-Eastern Shore 87-36.

The Bluejays scored the game’s first 13 points and were up by 28 at the half in one of the greatest defensive performances in program history. They limited the Hawks to 23.6 percent shooting, the worst by a Creighton opponent since Indiana State shot 23.3 percent in the 2007 MVC tournament, and UMES’ point total was the fewest the Bluejays allowed since a 35-34 loss to Illinois State in January 1986.

“I don’t care who you’re playing, when you hold a team to 36 points in 60 possessions you’re doing something right defensively,” coach Greg McDermott said. “So that was encouraging to see.”

Creighton extended its nonconference home win streak to 20, and its six victories in Omaha this season have been particularly one-sided. The Bluejays are outscoring opponents by an average of 32.3 points, the third-greatest point differential in home games among major conference teams.

Creighton has been lights out shooting at home, making at least half their shots in every game and is at 55.5 percent. Against Maryland-Eastern Shore, the Bluejays’ top three scorers Marcus Foster (18.6 ppg), Khyri Thomas (15.7) and Martin Krampelj (12.4) combined to make 15 of 23 shots as the team outscored the Hawks 21-2 on fast-break points.

“I think the biggest challenge to playing Creighton is that they play extremely fast in transition,” UT Arlington coach Scott Cross said. “They pitch the ball up the floor on makes and misses. They run to the 3-point line. They have a lot of good shooters. We are going to have to be great with our transition defense. We can’t take bad shots and we can’t turn the ball over. They are extremely efficient offensively.”

Foster is shooting 46.4 percent on 28 3-point tries in four games this month while Krampelj has made 74.4 percent of his 39 shots in his last five games for Creighton, which is 10th in the country in shooting at 51.6 percent.

Defending Sun Belt champion UT Arlington (8-3) is led by Kevin Hervey, last season’s conference player of the year. The 6-foot-7 senior forward is sixth in the nation in scoring at 23.6 points, ranks third in the conference in rebounds at 9 per game and had a season-high 30 points in Saturday’s 86-65 win at Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

This will be the Mavericks’ second game with the 25th-ranked team in the AP poll this season after falling 77-76 at then-No. 25 Alabama on Nov. 21. With that defeat, Texas-Arlington dropped to 2-40 against teams from major conferences in the past 20 seasons, though, one of those victories came last November at Texas.

“I’ve watched just a little bit of them, but all you have to do is look at some of their scores,” McDermott said. “I think were up 20 in the second half (at BYU), they lose at Alabama on a last-second shot and led Northern Iowa with six or seven minutes left and lose a close game.

“This is a win that’ll be on the right side of the column in March if you can get it, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Creighton has won both previous meetings with UT Arlington, prevailing 106-50 in the last matchup in the 2002-03 season opener.