Mon, 18 Jan 2021

No. 9 Creighton takes on crosstown foe Omaha

Field Level Media
01 Dec 2020, 05:19 GMT+10

No. 9 Creighton will look to stay unbeaten when it hosts Omaha on Tuesday night.

The Bluejays are coming off a 69-58 win over North Dakota State Sunday. It was the season opener for Creighton (1-0), and head coach Greg McDermott was the first to admit that the victory was far from pretty.

"Ifthere's ever a year just to take the next game and try to get past it with a 'W' and don't worry about how it happened, I think this is the year," McDermott said. "Let's try to figure out the next one and see what we have available and we'll strap it up and see what happens."

To McDermott's point, Creighton was not at full strength for Sunday's opener.

Denzel Mahoney, the reigning Big East Conference sixth man of the year, did not play as he recovers from COVID-19. Teammate Marcus Zegarowski, the conference's preseason player of the year, shot 2 of 11 from beyond the arc and struggled to get comfortable in his first game back since offseason knee surgery.

"I joked with him; he shot an air ball and made a 3 and neither one hit the rim," McDermott said. "The first one missed everything and the second one swished. I thought he played through what wasn't his best. While he may have expected his best, I think I knew better."

The next chance for the Bluejays to improve comes against Omaha, whose campus is only a few miles from Creighton. The Mavericks (1-2) have a win against Middle Tennessee and losses against Austin Peay and Abilene Christian.

Guard Marlon Ruffin has been Omaha's best player in the early going. He is averaging 16.3 points per game while shooting 42.4 percent from the field, 30 percent from 3-point range and 94.7 percent from the free-throw line.

Forward Matt Pile is next with 9.7 boards and 9.7 rebounds per game for Omaha. Forward Wanjang Tut is averaging 7.7 points to go along with five rebounds per contest.

Omaha lost a couple key players in K.J. Robinson and J.T. Gibson since last season, leaving a void for someone who can take charge toward the end of games.

"I've been thinking about that a lot -- like, who's going to be our guys taking the shots at the end of games," guard Ayo Akinwole said at the start of the season. "In practice right now ... you kind of see roles establishing for everybody. I think we've definitely got some guys that won't shy away from that shot, and be ready for it when it comes."

Creighton is led after one game by guard Christian Bishop, who had 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting. Zegarowski managed 12 points despite his poor shooting performance, and guards Mitch Ballock and Antwann Jones finished with 11 points apiece.

The Bluejays needed to wait longer than expected for their season to start. They were slated to take part in the Crossover Classic starting last Wednesday in Sioux Falls, S.D., but COVID-19 concerns forced a change of plans.

--Field Level Media

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