Creighton 78, Missouri State 56
Wednesday featured a big night for sports in the Omaha area. Creighton recruit/phenom Antoine Young dropped 28 points in the high school Metro Holiday Tournament, Nebraska and Michigan squared off in an entertaining Alamo Bowl contest, and the beloved Bluejays beat up on Barry Hinson’s Missouri State Bears.
Arguments preceded the busy night in Omaha sports; which game would prove most important to the casual Creighton basketball fan? Would a couple thousand people stay home and watch both the Alamo Bowl and KM3 TV’s broadcast of the Jays-Bears game? Would the technologically advanced fans TiVo or digitally record the football game and watch it after returning from the Qwest Center?
These are very important questions, considering the affect of the home court crowd on this season’s Creighton basketball team. After defeating Missouri State, Dana Altman’s team stands at 7-2, with both loses coming on the road (where the Jays are 1-2 on the year). In two months, the Jays have lost Nate Funk, Jimmy Motz, Pierce Hibma, and Steve Smith to injuries, and the home crowd has been the saving grace for the younger Jays who’ve been forced into extended minutes due to these unfortunate setbacks.
Thursday morning, basking in the glow of a big Jays blowout and the Husker football comeback, I spent some time rehashing the previous night’s events with my friend Darren. A life-long Husker fan, and one of the most sports-knowledgeable people I know, he was quite excited about Nebraska’s win and he understood the importance of Creighton’s big victory.
We discussed the loss of Funk and the subsequent expanding roles of some of the newer, less experienced Jays, and he likened the situation to incubation (he is also an expecting father). He described little Bluejay eggs, incubating in the friendly confines of the Qwest Center, which serves as a great place to nurture the young Bluejays.
It is, without a doubt, a perfect description of the importance of a great home crowd. Altman and his staff spent the last couple of weeks trying to get Nick Porter, Brice Nengsu, Manny Gakou, and Dominic Bishop ready for larger chunks of minutes, especially as Altman was staring at the beginning of conference play.
An average of 13,810 people have cheered this learning curve in the last four Jays home games, featuring big wins against Nebraska, Xavier, and now Missouri State. These fans, 11,500 of which passed up watching Husker football for their beloved Bluejays, have allowed the younger Jays to gain experience in front of supportive and loud crowds. A team that needs to play inspired defense to win games needs boisterous fan support, and that is exactly what they’ve received.
The Jays will ring in the New Year in central Illinois, facing Illinois State and Bradley. While Creighton is still without the Wounded Four, Jays fans can feel better about the experience the young Jays will take with them on their first Valley road trip of the young season.
Behind the Box Score
- Balance, balance, balance. That was the name of the game for the Jays, as Johnny Mathies (18), Anthony Tolliver (18), Dane Watts (13), and Nick Porter (10) all scored in double figures for Creighton. Freshman point guard Josh Dotzler also added 9 points, and all but one Bluejay who played scored. It was the best offensive performance for Creighton in a few games, as the Jays shot nearly 45% from the field and from three-point distance.
- Speaking of Nick Porter, he had his best all-around game as a Jay. His 10 points mark the fifth time this season – and fourth time in the last five games – that he has scored double-figures, pushing his season average to 8 points per game. However, Nick also pushed and pulled and soared for 8 defensive rebounds, he hit two big three-point hoops, and played great defense on Missouri State standout Blake Ahern. It was the first game when some comparisons between Porter and Ben Walker seemed to be appropriate.
- The rebounding effort increased again for Creighton, as they out-boarded MSU 39-35. Porter (8) and Jeff Day (10) led Creighton, and they were joined by Tolliver and Watts (4 each) as the Creighton frontcourt completely manhandled its opponent. This kind of effort will be needed night in and night out during conference play.
- The Jays committed just 1 turnover in the second half.
- The Jays shot about 73% from the charity stripe, bringing their season percentage to 68%.
- The erasers down in the paint for the Jays continue their exceptional block party. Tolliver (18) and Day (13) rank in the top five in the Valley in blocked shots.