High-flying Bluejays face Rebels in Paradise Jam final
No. 22 Creighton came close to scoring more than 115 points for the first time in more than 30 years Sunday.
Curious observers will be interested to see if the Bluejays can crack the 115-point mark Monday night when they face Ole Miss on Monday night in the championship game of the Paradise Jam tournament at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
Creighton (4-0) set a tournament record for points when it advanced with a 112-94 victory over North Carolina State. It was the most points scored by the school since getting 115 against former Missouri Valley Conference rival Indiana State on Jan. 19, 1985.
The outburst was the fifth-highest total in school history and followed a 103-point showing in the opening round against Washington State. In those games, the Bluejays shot 58.3 percent (80 of 137) and made 52.5 percent (21 of 40) of their 3-pointers.
Cole Huff scored 20 points Sunday and has 39 points in the tournament, making him a candidate to be named MVP of the event. Huff was one of six Bluejays in double figures Sunday, including leading scorer Marcus Foster.
Creighton, with its high-scoring offense is on the verge of winning the school's fourth regular-season tournament title under coach Greg McDermott.
"Our pace in our transition game really impacts (the opponents') choices to go to the glass," McDermott said. "Because if they don't get it, we're going to get downhill in a hurry. That's a credit to our rebounders, our outlet guys. Our wings are doing a great job running the floor."
A win on Monday also would give Creighton its fifth 5-0 or better start under McDermott. It would also mark the second time a current Big East Conference school won the tournament.
Ole Miss (4-0) has not approached triple digits in the tournament, but its offense has been pretty good through four games. The Rebels advanced to the title game with an 81-68 win over Saint Joseph's on Sunday.
The Rebels reached at least 80 points for the fourth consecutive time, due in part to the best game of Sebastian Saiz's career. Saiz, a senior forward, helped the Rebels improve to 21-8 in regular-season tournaments under coach Andy Kennedy by getting 26 points and 12 rebounds.
Leading scorer Deandre Burnett scored 20 points after collecting 41 points with nine 3-pointers in the opening-round, 95-88 overtime win over Oral Roberts.
"We were giving up a lot of free opportunities in the last game " Saiz said. "We used the mentality of 'nothing free tonight.' I knew they were going to try to double-team me, but I was ready for it. I knew they weren't going to be able to stop me."
Before advancing to the title game Sunday, the Rebels needed to rally from a five-point deficit Saturday against the Golden Eagles. And even before reaching St. Thomas, Ole Miss rallied from nine-point deficits against Massachusetts and Tennessee-Martin in its first two games.
"It just shows how resilient this team is," Burnett said after the win over Oral Roberts. "It shows we can battle and be resilient down the stretch. We fix a couple of things, and we'll be pretty good."
If Ole Miss wins, it would be 5-0 for the first time since 2013-14.
Monday will be the second meeting between the schools. Ole Miss recorded a 75-68 victory in the semifinals of 2014 Emerald Coast Classic in Florida, the school's last win over a ranked team on a neutral court.