OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Two statistics stood out with Creighton coach Greg McDermott after his ninth-ranked Bluejays rolled past Omaha 94-67 Tuesday.
Six of his players scored in double figures, and 3-point sharpshooter Mitch Ballock wasn't among them. Big East preseason player of the year Marcus Zegarowski barely was.
And there were assists on 28 of the Bluejays' 34 field goals.
“When your best players are willing to give up the basketball to make a play for somebody else, that's able to permeate through your entire roster,” McDermott said. "That was obvious with the ball movement today. That's how we're going to be successful.
“We're not blessed with a bunch of guys who are going to beat you one-on-one, but with ball movement a lot of things are possible. Today we were really elite with our willingness to make that extra pass.”
Christian Bishop scored 18 points to lead the Bluejays (2-0), who came out much sharper than they did in their opener against North Dakota State on Sunday. They shot 61% while bolting to a 50-26 halftime lead.
Zegarowski, who had 11 assists to go with 11 points, made back-to-back 3-pointers near the end of a 27-3 run that broke open the game early.
Denzel Mahoney, who sat out the opener because of COVID-19 issues, hit the first of his five 3s for Creighton's opening basket and finished with 17 points. Antwann Jones scored 12 points, Damien Jefferson added 11 points and Ryan Kalkbrenner had 10.
The Mavericks (1-3) had no answer for the inside-outside game of Bishop, who had 12 points and seven rebounds before the break. He played only five minutes in the second half, allowing the 7-foot Kalkbrenner and the 6-11 Jacob Epperson to get decent playing time.
“He's got a tremendous understanding of our offense,” McDermott said of Bishop. “Most important, his teammates have an unbelievable amount trust in him. When he drives at the basket they know if they flip it up there he’s going to go make a play and get them an assist and keep it from being a turnover.”
Marlon Ruffin scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half and Matt Pile had a game-high nine rebounds to lead the Mavericks.
"First half obviously wasn’t what we wanted,” Omaha coach Derrin Hansen said. “Give Creighton credit. I really thought we got out-transitioned. They made shots they didn’t make the other night, they got us on the glass and they got us on some of their actions.”
The teams, whose campuses are 15 minutes apart, met in the regular season for the first time since 1995. This was the 44th game between the teams and the most lopsided since Creighton won 107-67 in 1961.
Omaha: The Mavericks of the Summit League were playing their highest-ranked opponent since elevating from Division II 10 years ago. They were overmatched from the start and play their next six games on the road, including dates with No. 7 Kansas, Colorado and Kansas State.
Creighton: This was nothing more than a glorified scrimmage for the Bluejays, who bounced back from a poor shooting game against North Dakota State with 57% accuracy from the field. They hit 11 of 22 3s after going 8 for 35 against NDSU.
LET'S DO IT AGAIN MAYBE
The pandemic has caused teams across the country to scramble to find opponents, often on short notice. McDermott said it's possible Creighton and Omaha will play a rematch if one or the other team, or one of their opponents, encounters a COVID-19 outbreak.
“In these uncertain times I think we both have to be ready to pivot,” McDermott said. “Should something happen, you have to be prepared to play as many games locally within easy driving distance as you can.”
Epperson, the Bluejays' junior center from Australia, played for the second time in three days after coming into the season without having been in a game since Dec. 14, 2018. A back injury, knee surgery and a broken leg kept him out 716 days.
He played seven minutes and had two blocked shots against North Dakota State and had six points and six rebounds in eight minutes against Omaha.
Omaha visits Drake on Thursday.
Creighton hosts Kennesaw State on Friday.
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