No. 25 Creighton makes quick work of USC Upstate
OMAHA, Neb. — Marcus Foster and Creighton’s other starters were through for the night before the midway point of the second half Wednesday, giving the reserves some valuable playing time as the 25th-ranked Bluejays routed South Carolina Upstate 116-62.
Foster and five of his teammates scored in double figures before an announced crowd of 15,366 at CenturyLink Center.
However, before putting on his warmup top for most of the second half, Foster poured in 16 points by making 6 of 7 shots — including 3 of 4 from 3-point range — and one free throw.
Other Creighton players who finished in double figures were Toby Hegner and Mitch Ballock (13 apiece), Ty-Shon Alexander (11) and Khyri Thomas and Tyler Clement (10 apiece).
The Bluejays (10-2) shot 19 of 34 from 3-point range (55.9 percent) and 42 of 65 overall (64.6 percent).
The 19 3-pointers represented the third-highest single-game total in school history, and the 116 points scored were the most by a Creighton team since 1964. The 54-point margin tied for fifth best in school history.
The Bluejays set a school record with 32 assists, including a career-high eight by Syracuse transfer Kaleb Joseph. Six other Creighton players had three assists apiece.
“You worry as the guys prepare to go home to see their families for a few days on what the level of focus will be,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It was obvious from the start that the ball moved and the willingness to make an extra pass (was there). That really sets the tone for the rest of the night.
“Proud of the guys that they were locked in, 10-2 before Christmas, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.”
The game was close for the first four minutes as the Spartans (4-11) got a pair of 3-pointers that helped make the score 11-8. Then it was off to the races for the Creighton offense, as the Bluejays went on a 34-7 run over the next 10 minutes to take a 45-15 lead.
Creighton’s advantage continued to grow as McDermott kept all his starters on the bench in the final six minutes before the Bluejays headed to halftime with a 58-24 lead.
It was the second-biggest halftime lead for the Bluejays in a game at CenturyLink Center. Only a 37-point lead at intermission over Longwood (62-25) in 2016 topped Wednesday’s performance.
Creighton was 22 of 32 (68.8 percent) in the first half. Foster led the way with 16 points and two steals as 10 different Bluejays scored in the opening 20 minutes.
Hegner said the starters knew their minutes would be limited in the second half. That made it important for them, and the reserves who finished the game, to keep playing with the same level of intensity that they did in the first half as Creighton prepares to open Big East Conference play Dec. 28 at Seton Hall.
“There’s no better feeling than going into Big East play like a train,” Hegner said. “We’re excited, we’re ready, it will be good to go home and see our families a little bit, (then) come back and get ready to work.”
The Bluejays led by at least 40 points for the final six minutes, with their biggest lead 56 points.
Creighton cleared the century mark with just under five minutes remaining in the game on a 3-pointer from the right wing by Davion Mintz.
Malik Moore led South Carolina Upstate with 14 points and six rebounds. Avery Diggs added 10 points and Deion Holmes scored nine.
“I was disappointed in the way we played,” Spartans coach Kyle Perry said. “We told our kids, when you watch them on tape, at times it’s almost like they’re on fast-forward because they are really, really fast with the ball. They have great pieces to work with.”
NOTES: South Carolina Upstate is now 0-9 in true road games this season, including losses to Minnesota (92-77) and Georgia (74-65). ... The Spartans rank second nationally with 425 3-point attempts and are No. 19 in 3-pointers made per game (10.8). ... Coach Greg McDermott picked up his 175th win with Creighton on Monday against Texas-Arlington. He is just the second coach in program history to reach that victory milestone, joining predecessor Dana Altman (327). It took McDermott 259 games to get to 175, while Altman needed 274 to reach that mark. ... Creighton has won 104 consecutive home games over teams that enter the game with a record of .500 or worse.