Jays Dominate, Much To Chagrin of Husker Nation
Three years ago, following Creighton’s 50-48 win over Nebraska
, I filled the majority of this space with rants and raves about the abilities of Dana Altman. Specifically, I compared his coaching style and effort to that of Sadler’s predecessor, Barry Collier (he of one win against Creighton, which came in the NIT at the end of the disappointing 2003-2004 season). Two years ago, following Creighton’s short-handed 70-44 thrashing of the Huskers
, I wrote about Bluejays flying across my bedroom window and my feelings that I expected Altman’s teams to win every game, no matter who the opponent, every time they take the floor.
Altman gets the most out of his teams, no matter where he's been
Obviously, I’m a big Altman fan. But a coach, while able to do so many things to get his team ready to play, cannot make shots fall. For as good as Altman has been in every stop of his coaching career (OK, insert “what about that brief trip to Fayetteville?” joke here), he can only control so many aspects of the game in order to help the Jays win, and shots dropping is not one of them.First Half Near Perfection
But when the shots are falling, as they were during the first half of Saturday’s 74-62 win
, it is hard for any team, no matter their conference or talent level or star power, to beat Altman’s Jays. Creighton combined great defensive effort with raw emotion and intent focus, and then waited for the shots to fall. It took a little while to materialize, as the first six minutes of the game went by and the only thing larger than Creighton’s 6 points were Nebraska’s 7 turnovers.
Stinnett shows hustle after poking the ball away from a Husker
But then a steal by freshman phenom P’Allen Stinnett
led to a 3-pointer by Dane Watts
. And then another steal led to a 3-pointer by Booker Woodfox. Over the next 13 minutes, the shots fell like the Huskers’ hopes as the Jays went on a 35-16 run and cruised into halftime with one of the most efficient halves of basketball anyone has seen at the Qwest Center. Altman had done his part: it was obvious from the opening warm-ups his team was more focused and energetic than Doc Sadler’s Huskers squad, and his constant substitutions and various defensive looks and personnel match-ups confused even the most experienced Nebraska players.
Kenny Lawson attacks the basketball and defends the hoop
But the one thing Altman couldn’t control — the shots — were out of control … in a great way. Creighton shot 57% from the field in the first half, making nearly as many shots from the floor as their opponent took (17 to 21, respectively). In fact, the Jays had as many baskets as the Huskers had turnovers. It was sheer domination. The scoring column was balanced; nine players contributed to the point total, but no one player had more than 9 points (Watts led the half with three 3-point makes).
CU hit 64% of their long-range shots, while they gave up just two three-point buckets to NU. The Huskers out-rebounded the Jays, but that was about the only spot in the box score where Nebraska was even close to outperforming Creighton. CU compiled 11 assists in the first half (so assists on 65% of their baskets) while NU recorded just 2 (on 29% of their hoops) assists.
Second Half = Gasps for Air
And then it all just stopped. Almost without warning, Creighton’s offense regressed to the tune of zero assists in the second half on 7 field goals. Zero 3-point makes. The effort was there, but not with the same level of intensity that takes over the entire bench when everything is going right and you have your intrastate rival on the ropes ready for the knockout. Nebraska decided to get physical with the Jays, and it led to nearly the same amount of free-throw attempts for CU as they had field goal tries in the half.
But all of that didn’t matter, because of three things.
1. Creighton won, and they’ve won 8 of the last 9 regular season match-ups against NU. Style points don’t exist. The first half was outstanding, but in some ways the second half was even better because CU didn’t give up the lead. Offense puts you ahead, but defense wins games. Creighton stopped Nebraska when they needed to. And you know why? …
2. ... Because of Cavel Witter
. The speedy sophomore point guard scored a team-high 10 second-half points and was perfect from the free-throw line in the closing stanza, but it was his defense and his intensity that slammed the door on NU. After the Huskers cut Creighton’s 27-point halftime lead to 9 with just under 6 minutes to play, Witter calmly hit two free throws. A few minutes after he initially turned back Nebraska, he closed the door on them for good, scoring a lay-up, recording a steal, and then adding another lay-up in a span of 15 seconds. It will be scary to see what Witter will bring to this team night in and night out, especially because he’ll be able to play with …
3. ... P’Allen Stinnett. Insiders on the Hilltop spent most of the summer gushing about Stinnett’s raw talent, his love for the game, and his willingness to play with emotion and intensity. They also said he could dunk like Rodney Buford
. Because of my worship of Buford’s play while at Creighton and my wait-and-see approach to Creighton’s usual incoming freshmen, I wasn’t an easy person to convince.
Jays fans haven't seen anything like P'Allen since Hot Rod's time
But if his opening-night scoring explosion and his great all-around effort in the last game were not enough proof, those in attendance or watching on TV saw at 1:32 mark of the second half a dunk that wasn’t like those Buford used to throw down at the Civic — it was better. Read the next sentence carefully, and then prepare to see video proof of the event in the next couple of days.
Stinnett, all 6-foot-3, 170 pounds of him, took the ball of a made shot by Nebraska, stutter-stepped past overmatched Husker recruit Ade Dagunduro, drove the ball to the lane with one other Husker in sight, and completely posterized NU’s Shang Ping.
Ping is 6-foot-10 tall, weighs 230 pounds, and watched as a skinny freshman from Las Vegas played Vince Carter to his skinny French center.
Click on the link to catch Carter’s dunk, and then ask yourself this question once you’ve seen P’Allen’s P’oster dunk over Ping: is Carter’s more impressive because he jumped completely over a 7-foot-2 guy who was standing on the ground, or is P’Allen’s more insane because a 6-foot-10 guy tried to jump and block his shot.
Call me a believer. The kid can do it all, and he knows it.
UPDATE: Click below for a replay of Stinnett's dunk via the game broadcast on KMTV 3 in Omaha.
Tough Road on Horizon
Through three games, the Jays are 3-0 with home wins against DePaul and Nebraska, two teams that will struggle to finish in the upper half of their respective “super” conferences. Creighton’s three best non-conference opponents (that we know of; see: Bracket Buster in February) await the Jays, however, after a match-up later this week against Savannah State. Altman’s Jays travel to Philadelphia to face Drexel, head to Cincinnati to battle Xavier, and then play host to St. Joseph’s, all in a span of 8 days.
Time for the new birds to fly from the nest and test their wings.