Teams: Creighton (6-2) vs. Nebraska (6-2)
Day: Sunday, Dec. 8
Time: 6:00 PM ET
Location: CenturyLink Center Omaha; Omaha, Nebraska
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: 1620 KZON-AM (Creighton) or Husker Sports Network (Nebraska)
The Bluejays have finally returned home to Omaha. Having played their last game in Omaha on Nov. 23, Creighton now returns to CenturyLink Center Omaha to take on their in-state rivals, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. If we take a look at Hoop-Math, we will see that Nebraska has been abhorrent in defending the rim this season. They are letting teams shoot 63.8 percent at the rim and on unblocked shots, an even larger 69.2 percent of shots are being converted at the cup. This could present a problem for the Cornhuskers. Creighton this season as a team is shooting 67.3 percent at the rim in their transition offense, and 64.6 percent in their non-transition offense at the cup. A player to watch in this department is Devin Brooks, who has taken 65 percent of his field goal attempts at the rim this season. Brooks has been efficient at the rim too, collecting a 53.8 FG% at the basket.
In Nebraska's two losses this season, they have been unable to do a good job of protecting the rim for second chances and in defensive responsibilities. They let up an offensive rebounding rate of 47.2 and and 45.2 in their losses to Massachusetts and UAB in November. Creighton has not registered rates like that this season, as they rank 241st in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage with a rate of 29.2 percent. However, it's clear that Nebraska has struggled in this area and it has led to losses, so this may be something that Creighton has to look to exploit when the situations arise. Fittingly enough, Devin Brooks is the team leader in OR%, at 14 percent, 104th best in the country.
Creighton has been feasting on teams who have been inefficient from the field this season. Unfortunately for Nebraska, that is where they land. As a team, the Cornhuskers are shooting 43.9 percent all over the floor. From the 3-point line, they have not fared much better, checking in with just a 34.9 percent mark from the perimeter. They are 180th in the country in Effective FG% at 49.1 percent which is below the Division 1 average of 49.5 percent. WIth a team like the Bluejays, who can score at will, it is imperative that the Cornhuskers either find open looks to create better shots and give their players a higher percentage of making them, or force Creighton's hand defensively and limit their chances to make field goals. Nebraska does fall 75th in the nation in defensive Effective FG%, allowing just 45.9 percent of field goals to be made.
Terran Petteway is at the forefront of this Huskers team. The 6'6 junior forward from Galveston, Tex. is the leading scorer (15.8 PPG) and rebounder (4.9 RPG) despite shooting just 39.4 percent from the field. One thing that has plagued Petteway this season? Turnovers. Petteway is averaging an egregious 1.9 turnovers per game, which is the highest of any Husker on the roster. Despite that though, the Cornhuskers are one of the best teams at keeping control of the ball, with a Turnover Percentage of just 14.3 percent. That goes for 17th best in the country, and is well below the Division 1 average of 18.4 percent. Nonetheless, Petteway has to do his part in keeping that turnover percentage low against the Bluejays, who can and will feast.
Can Doug McDermott truly be an X-Factor/ He certainly can. In his career against the Cornhuskers, McDermott has been phenomenal. The senior forward has scored an average of 20.33 PPG against Nebraska in his last three outings, and has added 7.33 RPG to that impressive tally. McDermott rebounded from his poor performance against the George Washington Colonials with a big night against the Long Beach St. 49ers. Second-year head coach Tim Miles will have to do just about everything that he can to try and make Doug feel uncomfortable and not let him get going. If he does, he could be in store for what is set to be his final game against the Huskers in his college career.
Junior Leslee Smith has quietly put together an impressive season thus far as a role player for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Smith, a forward from the British Virgin Islands, and a transfer from Southern Methodist University, is averaging 8.5 PPG and 7.1 RPG. This while only averaging 19 minutes a night. He has been dynamite inside the perimeter, shooting 62.5 percent on his 2-PT attempts this season. It would behoove the Bluejays greatly for them to account for Smith, because he could provide a lot of damage in limited minutes and possessions if he sees the opportunity.
Per Creighton's media notes, Nebraska leads the all-time series against Creighton 25-21. With that said, the Bluejays have beaten the Cornhuskers in 12 of the last 17 matchups. This after Creighton lost seven meetings in a row from 1990-97. The Bluejays have certainly had the better end of this in-state rivalry in the new millennium, and it could be difficult for the Cornhuskers to change that. While Creighton had its slip ups in the Wooden Legacy Tournament, they also are fresh off of a dismantling of Long Beach State and there is no doubt that the Creighton crowd will be happy to welcome their Bluejays back to the CenturyLink Center in Omaha. Expect Creighton to keep this close in the opening frame, as they always seem to do, but McDermott & Co. should be able to be effective enough from the floor to get the job done.
Creighton 77 Nebraska 62