Creighton runs past No. 23 UCLA
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Big scoring runs come in handy in college basketball, and Creighton proved it Monday night in a 100-89 victory over No. 23 UCLA in the first semifinal game of the 2017 CBE Hall of Fame Classic Monday night at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
The Bluejays will face the winner of Monday night’s second game between Wisconsin and Baylor.
The Blue Jays had a 16-point run in the first half, and a 14-0 run sandwiched around halftime.
“We just couldn’t get stops,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “We just couldn’t get any stops that mattered. Offensively we did a lot of good things. We had the inside-out going like we wanted. We just couldn’t get the stops and I thought that was the key.”
Creighton (4-0) was led by Marcus Foster with 23 points. Mitch Ballock added 22 points, Khyri Thomas had 16, Ty-Shon Alexander had 12 and Davion Mintz had 10.
UCLA (3-1) was led by Aaron Holiday with 25 points. Prince Ali had 18 for the Bruins, while Thomas Welsh had 16 and Kris Wilkes had 15.
Creighton came into the game averaging 97.7 points per game, and they exceeded that number. Coach Greg McDermott said his club likes that pace.
“You don’t get a rest when you play a team like UCLA,” McDermott said. “They’re going to try to force the pace as well.
“It’s who we are. It’s what we believe in. Guys enjoy it. As long as we can play at that pace and make relatively good decisions...eight turnovers in that many possessions, that’s pretty clean basketball.”
While Foster was the leading scorer for the Jays, he quickly diverted the attention to his freshman teammate Ballock.
“Mitch, he did big for us,” Foster said. “That momentum we had at halftime was because Mitch got going. His 3s and his steals got us going. That’s just what he does.”
Alford said the Bruins were not surprised by Ballock. They just couldn’t stop him.
“We were very prepared (for Ballock). He’s just a very good player,” Alford said. “We saw him on tape, and we talked to our guys about him. We had plenty of time to go over him, as we did all these other guys, but we gave him way too many good looks. He’s not just a shooter. He put the ball on the floor well. He did a lot of good things out there.”
McDermott said his team can get better. He pointed to the 6-of-23 shooting from 3-point range.
“Marcus (Foster) had three or four wide-open 3s,” he said. “We’re not going to turn those down. We would die to get that shot against their man-to-man. Because they didn’t go in doesn’t make them bad shots. We missed some pretty open shots against the zone, and that disrupted our zone. We did some good things. We just didn’t make shots.”
That’s a scary thought for the Bluejays’ future opponents.
“That’s a very good basketball team,” Alford said. “My hat goes off to Creighton. They are really good, in particular offensively. There are a lot of hard matchups. This will be a good lesson as we go back and watch tape. We’ll continue to work on what we have to do defensively, because I thought that was really the key.”
NOTES: The UCLA freshman trio of LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill remain suspended. They were arrested last week on suspicion of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store while the Bruins were in the Chinese city of Hangzhou... The Bruins won the first of their 11 NCAA titles in Kansas City (Municipal Auditorium) in 1964. ... Former Creighton great Paul Silas was enshrined in the College Basketball Hall of Fame Sunday night. ... This is Creighton’s third time in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic (2002 and 2004 when the event was known as the Guardians Classic). The Bluejays are now 11-0 all-time in the tournament.