In what started as a rock fight and evolved into something resembling a basketball game, Creighton managed to come back from a first half deficit to overtake arch rival Nebraska 75-65.
Nebraska, utilizing a high pressure defense around the perimeter, choked out Creighton’s outside shooting abilities, forcing the Jays to go inside. The pressure was similar to what the Jays saw Gonzaga deploy in their tilt in Spokane, and it took some time for the Jays to adjust.
From the opening tip until the end of the first half, it was clear that Nebraska perfected a gameplan to slow Creighton’s pace and use a tough-as-nails defense to force turnovers. While the Jays were able to get out to a 4-0 lead thanks to an alley-oop dunk by Martin Krampelj and a jumper by Khyri Thomas, the Huskers were able to stymie their run and completely control the pace.
A three by Evan Taylor negated the 4-0 opening run, while a three by James Palmer Jr., pushed them ahead in the opening minutes. At the first media timeout it was 11-7, Cornchuckers.
By the second media timeout?
Nebraska was able to do what very few teams can only dream of; stop the Jays from running. With this pace they were able to set up in the half court and play their game. They played it poorly and inefficiently, but they still played it, leaning on former Hoya Isaac Copeland and Palmer to pick up points.
Creighton’s Tyshon Alexander started over Bluejay point guard Davion Mintz for “disciplinary reasons,” yet was pulled after turning the ball over on consecutive possessions. TOBY! Hegner also got the start over Ronnie Harrell.
Mintz had his pocket picked multiple times by Glynn Watson Jr, who was being neutralized on the other side of the court. The aforementioned Husker defense was able to force ten Bluejay turnovers in the first half, four of those coming from Mintz and Alexander.
They turned those turnovers into...
The one gamechanger for the Jays, the one silver lining in what was an absolute trainwreck of a first half, was the play of Ronnie Harrell Jr. As I’ve said, he’s a Swiss Army knife, a player who can do it all for the Jays. He was able to grab 9 rebounds, tipped in a missed three by Mitchell Ballock (they went 2-13 from three in the first half), and nailed a triple.
Oh, and then this happened:
Marcus Foster, scoring just 2 points in the half, was absent. Quiet. Almost non existent. One may presume that that wouldn’t stay that way.
At half, it was 33-28 and the anxiety experienced by every Jays fan was permeating from every pore.
The second half started with a three from Isaac Copeland. Marcus Foster answered back with a three of his own. Suddenly, the energy in the building shifted.
Foster was back.
After a Khyri and-one, the Husker lead was cut to 2. Isaac Copeland would respond with a dunk, followed by a haphazard dunk by Foster.
Then, Mitchell Ballock entered the fray. Down by two, the freshman phenom nailed a three to put the Jays up one. Nebraska answered back quickly with a jumper by Palmer, then Ballock answered back with a jumper of his own to take back the lead.
What happened after that was pure magic, as Creighton forced the Huskers into a shot clock violation. The place went ballistic, the loudest it’d been all night, and the Jays had completely taken back the momentum.
After a jumper by Davion Mintz to push the lead to 3, Nebraska answered back with a three by Isaiah Roby.
It’d be tied one more time, at the 9:34 mark with the score of 47-47, before Mitchell Ballock drove baseline and put up a layup to make it 49-47. The Jays never lost the lead after that, but the Huskers kept it within two possessions for most of the rest of the way.
Speaking of Ronnie Harrell...
With time winding down, just over a minute left, and the Huskers coming out of a timeout, Marcus Foster buried a three to put the Jays up 6.
That was the dagger that killed Herbie once again.
After Copeland missed a three on the other end, Foster gathered the rebound and was promptly fouled with 31 seconds left.
From then on it was a free throw affair.