No. 10 Creighton pulls away from Buffalo
OMAHA, Neb. — Creighton shook off another slow start Tuesday and outscored Buffalo by 19 points in the second half en route to a 93-72 victory.
It turned into another convincing win for the No. 10 Bluejays, who improved to 7-0 before a CenturyLink Center crowd of 16,434.
The Bluejays broke the 90-point barrier for the fourth time this season while making at least 50 percent of their shots for the seventh straight game. They made 36 of 71 (50.7 percent).
That total was buoyed by a 56.8 percent performance in the second half as the Bluejays broke a close game — they led just 41-39 at halftime — with an 11-5 start to the second half that eventually led to a 67-51 lead with 11 minutes to play.
Better second-half play has been a trend the past three games for the Bluejays. Coach Greg McDermott said some of that has to do with the pace the Jays play, the up-tempo style that gradually wears teams down over 40 minutes.
Senior guard Maurice Watson said getting back to stronger starts, while continuing to keep a relentless pace in the second half, is something the Jays can work on.
“In the first half we’re just kind of comfortable,” Watson said. “We can’t be that way. We have to come out knowing that target is on our back and just doing things we do for us. If we do our jobs, then we’ll probably be successful.”
Marcus Foster led all scorers with 22 points, one more than 7-foot redshirt freshman Justin Patton’s 21 for Creighton. Khyri Thomas added 18 and Watson finished with 15.
Blake Hamilton and Willie Conner led Buffalo (4-3) with 21 points apiece.
Creighton again got off to a slow start. This time the Bluejays bounced back much faster than in Saturday’s victory over Loyola (Md.). Creighton led by five points in that game before making some offensive adjustments at halftime to roll to an 82-52 victory.
On Tuesday, Buffalo dominated the boards in the first four minutes, but three turnovers kept them from getting closer than 6-6 at the first media timeout.
After making just three of their first eight shots, the Bluejays responded with a 9-0 run to go ahead 15-6. But that didn’t deter the Bulls, who responded with an 11-4 run, sparked by six points from forward Conner, to get within 21-17 with just under eight minutes remaining before halftime.
“If we didn’t turn the ball over so much, I thought we could have had a lead there at the half,” Buffalo coach Nate Oats said. “As it was, we were right in the game.”
Buffalo continued to chip away at Creighton’s advantage and took its first lead at 34-33 on a jumper by Hamilton with three minutes left in the half.
“Hamilton is a hard guard when he’s got his hands on the ball that much,” McDermott said. “We tried to get it out of his hands, and I thought early he was eager to get rid of it. Then, in the second part of the first half, he went in to attack and really picked us apart.”
The Bluejays quickly regained the lead with a trio of big shots by Patton. The first came on an alley-oop dunk off a pass from Watson.
That was followed by a 17-foot jumper from the right of the key before a 3-pointer from the top of the key put the Bluejays ahead 41-36. Buffalo scored the final three points of the half to trail just 41-39.
“We spent a good portion of that half on defense,” McDermott said. “Probably 70 percent of the time on defense, because we were taking quick shots, first side shots, some of which were open.
“When you’re struggling a little bit offensively, you’ve got to rely on movement and trust your teammates. We did that much better the second half.”
That teamwork showed up in the final rebounding totals. After being down 22-13 on the boards in the first half, Creighton finished with a 42-40 advantage as the Jays’ running style took the steam out of Buffalo’s injury-depleted lineup.
NOTES: Justin Patton and Marcus Foster extended their streak of games at the beginning of their careers scoring in double figures to seven. Patton had a team-high 13 first-half points while Foster got to 11 less than four minutes into the second half. ... Buffalo is in the final stages of an 11-day trip that covers more than 8,400 miles. Included in the road swing was a trip to Alaska, where the Bulls finished third in the Great Alaska Shootout. ... Creighton leads the all-time series 2-0. The Bluejays defeated Bulls 36-27 on March 1, 1922, in Buffalo. ... Creighton’s next game is Saturday at 7 p.m. CST against another Mid-American Conference foe, 2015-16 regular season champion Akron.