THE STATE REMAINS BLUE
In the first ten minutes of this game it appeared as if this was going to be another Creighton blowout against local neighbor Nebraska, but alas it was not to be. In those first few minutes Nebraska was shooting a balmy 15.4% from the field and went down the court time and time again, missing layups, missing three pointers, turning the ball over four times.
One would believe that, with Creighton’s potent offense, that they’d be able to put away the Huskers. You’d be wrong, very wrong, so wrong that your grade school teacher would hear about it. What Nebraska did on the defensive end was close out on everybody not named Maurice Watson Jr., forcing him to the bucket and making damn sure that no one was waiting on the wings.
This proved to be an effective tactic. Cole Huff was able to make a couple of wide open threes on some poor close outs by Nebraska, pushing his career total over the 1,000 point threshold. Though Creighton still shot 61% from the field in those first ten minutes, building an 18-6 lead, it soon began to dissipate as the Jays couldn’t get into any semblance of rhythm as the half wore on.
Nebraska’s defense locked down on the wings, shut down any dribble drive by poking a hand in any would-be slasher’s arms, and just let Mo Watson free to work.
Justin Patton, who said lots of things about disliking Nebraska leading up to the game, was sealed from the get go. Any attempt at a lob or a move in the post was met with heavy force from Nebraska’s bigs, notably Ed Morrow Jr. When Patton went to the line, the crowd laid into him, shaking him a bit as he went 1-4 from the freethrow line.
What a brilliant gameplan. Eventually, Nebraska started to make some baskets and crawl back into the game, eventually tying the affair up at 30 near the end of the half. The crowd, waiting for something to happen, eventually inserted themselves into the atmosphere as Nebraska tied it.
Halftime Score - 31-30 Creighton
With the score so close coming into the second half, it was paramount that Creighton get some buckets early and often, for Nebraska’s only weapon, Tai Webster, was relatively ineffective all night.
Marcus Foster scored six straight points coming out of the half, accomplishing that scoring thing that Creighton had been missing from him in the first half. Nebraska kept pace with a Tai Webster three, who would promptly commit a foul on the other end of the court for his fourth.
His fourth foul
Nebraska’s most explosive weapon, the only guy on the court that can score points in a hurry, was sidelined.
Perfect opportunity for Creighton to strike while the iron was sad, and strike they did.
At 39-37 with 15:38 remaining, Creighton proceeded to go on a 9-0 run to push their lead to 11. This consisted of a Watson lay-up, a lay-in by Khyri Thomas, a beautiful three quarter court solo fastbreak and score by Toby Hegner, and a three from newly minted thousand-pointer Cole Huff.
This seemed to be the run everyone expected Creighton to go on in the second half, capped by a Khyri Thomas three to put the Jays up by 14. From there, it was just a battle of attrition, with both sides beginning to trade baskets in the game’s central moments.
I’ll go ahead and say it: the officials tonight were downright atrocious. There were simple handchecks called for fouls, minor bumps being blown out of proportion, over the back calls being called on the players the foul was being perpetrated upon. It made the pace unbearable.
4:24 left in the second half
My life changed forever at this point. Marcus Foster drove the lane and put up a layup, only for the ball to rim out.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a flash of light brown hair and sweat streaked across the floor and dunked the Foster miss. My jaw dropped. It couldn’t be, but it had to have been.
It was Toby Hegner.
My mind searched for answers but instead every fiber of my being exploded with jubilation. I’d seen god in this moment, or something like it, as Toby had done something I thought was previously impossible. He made the possible... possible.
Then, while in my nirvana, a pass was fed to Toby in the post. I was still reeling from the aforementioned miracle, yet as I looked up I saw Toby’s feet leave the ground again, with the ball firmly grasped in his two hands, with his defender looking aimless and silly feet away from him, then suddenly the backboard rocked gleefully to-and-fro. Back. To. Back. Hegner. Dunks.
The win brings Creighton to 9-0 on the year and evens the all-time series against Nebraska at 25-25.