It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t the high-flying offensive display that his Creighton teams had seen in three previous wins over Nebraska. But Bluejays head coach Greg McDermott couldn’t have been more pleased with his team’s effort to make it a fourth straight victory over their in-state foe.
“It’s a heck of a win for us, at this stage of the season with this group of guys,” McDermott said. “To come on the road against a team as good as Nebraska and really execute our game plan almost to perfection.”
” I am very proud of my team. We beat a heck of a basketball team tonight.”
Trailing 24-14 after a jumper from Nebraska’s David Rivers, Creighton responded with a 10-0 run over the next 3:40 to tie the game on a three-pointer from Avery Dingman with 1:48 left before halftime. Although Terran Petteway’s shot from just inside the three-point line gave Nebraska a 28-27 lead heading to halftime, the Jays had closed the half on a 13-4 run that tightened up a game that the Huskers had thought they could blow open.
It wasn’t meant to be though according to Petteway, as Creighton kept making shot after shot.
“You have to give those guys credit. They shot the lights out,” Petteway said. “We didn’t play good enough defense. When you give a team like that open looks, they build momentum and keep knocking them down back to back.”
Creighton’s formula for success was able to stymie Nebraska once again and hand the Huskers just their second loss in 21 all-time games at the Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Jays made 10-of-23 three-point attempts, dished out 15 assists on 24 made field goals, and held Nebraska to just 37.7% shooting from the field as they won for the fourth straight time in the series. Senior Austin Chatman was fantastic for Creighton, with 19 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.
“”We just tried to keep the ball out of Petteway and Shields’ hands and make the other guys score and I think we did a good job of that going into late in the second half,” Chatman said.
Despite the early ten-point deficit, Chatman noted that the Jays didn’t get rattled after they faced an even bigger hole against Oklahoma two weeks prior.
“We’ve been at that point before, down 18 against Oklahoma. We stayed resilient, kept our composure, and got stops on the defensive end when we had to.”
Nebraska head coach Tim Miles had high praise for the Creighton senior.
“Austin Chatman is outstanding. He’s a really good player in any league,” Miles said.
Nebraska held a one point lead at halftime at 28-27 and would eventually extend their lead to as many as five points on three separate occasions, but a 13-3 run keyed by three pointers from Chatman, Isaiah Zierden, and Rick Kreklow put Creighton ahead to stay at 44-39 with 11:13 remaining. Nebraska would get to within one point on several occasions, but the Bluejays always had an answer before pulling away in the final two minutes.
Petteway had a game-high 21 points for the Huskers, but the junior was 8-of-20 from the field and 4-of-11 on three-point attempts, while only making 1-of-2 from the free throw line. A big reason for Creighton’s success was their game plan against Nebraska’s Shavon Shields, who struggled to a 3-of-10 night from the floor and finished with just seven points.
“Shields is obviously a little more choosey and efficient sometimes with his shot selection. So we just didn’t want to give him rhythm, we wanted to plug up those lanes especially when he was going to that right hand where he is so good,” McDermott said. “But let’s be honest, he missed a few that he normally makes. So to win a game like this, you need a little luck as well.”
Forward David Rivers had nine points and a game-high eight rebounds for the Huskers in a losing effort, who also got eight points from guard Benny Parker and the seven from Shields. The 55 points for Nebraska is the lowest they’ve had in a game this season, although they were held to 53 points in regulation during their other loss this season, a 66-62 setback at Rhode Island in overtime on November 22.
Miles also lamented the continued rough patch for forward Walter Pitchford, who was 1-of-9 from the floor and 0-of-5 from three-point range. After a couple of good outings against Omaha and Florida State, Miles felt like Pitchford was rounding into form after a tough start to the 2014-15 season.
“I thought Walt was getting better. I really did. But tonight he just wasn’t getting there. If I knew that answer, I would have solved it two and a half weeks ago,” Miles said. “I thought we had him back because he played two pretty decent games, but then again tonight he struggled.”
“His defense isn’t as good when his offense isn’t there. That has to be firmed up.”
Creighton outrebounded Nebraska 36-33 and connected on 47 percent of their shots from the floor, the highest shooting percentage Nebraska has allowed another team this season. The Huskers’ inability to connect from three-point range by making only 6-of-23 from deep and only 3-of-8 from the free throw line added up to the worst offensive performance of the season in a game it desperately wanted. The loss means the Bluejays have now won four straight in the I-80 series, with all four of those wins coming by double digits.
“I thought we were ready to play. It’s not that. We just weren’t able to take away the things they were able to take away from us,” Miles said.
“This is an unbelievable win for us in front of this crowd. It is incredible to have to programs in this state to fill their arenas and their fans are so engaged in their basketball teams the way these two are,” McDermott said.
Zierden added 13 points for the Bluejays, including 3-of-6 from three-point range to help Creighton shoot past the Huskers in the second half. Kreklow, a transfer from California-Berkeley, finished with nine points and Will Artino finished with eight points for the Jays.
The win moves Creighton to 7-2 on the season, while Nebraska slips to 5-2 with the loss. The Huskers host Incarnate Word on Wednesday night, while Creighton is back in action on Tuesday, hosting South Dakota at the Century Link Center.