OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — This time Creighton’s big run against Nebraska came in the second half.
The No. 8 Bluejays outscored the Cornhuskers 30-7 over an eight-minute stretch while pulling away for a 98-74 victory in the annual meeting of the state’s top Division I teams.
Last year, Creighton led 31-7 on its way to a 95-76 win.
“Our goal with the way we play,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said, “is to hit you with a run at some point in the game.”
This was no ordinary run. The game-turning sequence was filled with dunks and 3-pointers and saw eight Creighton players combine to make 11 of 14 shots. Nebraska missed 11 of 14 shots and turned over the ball five times as a close game turned into a blowout.
Ryan Kalkbrenner got things going, slamming the first of the Bluejays’ four dunks during the spurt as they stretched a 48-46 lead to 78-53.
“When we get some stops, it gets our offense going,” said Marcus Zegarowski, who had 22 points and was 5 for 7 on 3-pointers. “We have a great group of guys who are unselfish and make plays for each other. That will always be us. If we stay connected and really guard the ball and make the other team take tough shots, I think that’s when the momentum goes in our favor because it leads to transition baskets and easy baskets.”
Creighton (4-1) has won eight of nine against the Huskers (3-3) and lead the series 28-26. The Bluejays have won 13 straight regular-season home games against their in-state rival since losing in Omaha in 1995.
Zegarowski said beating Nebraska is always special.
“It means a little bit more,” he said. “We treat every game the same and we go in expecting to win, but there is a little more to it. It’s our rival. It’s an important game for our fans. We’re happy to play for them and make sure it’s still a blue state.”
Denzel Mahoney added 20 points with four 3s for the Bluejays. Zegarowski and Damien Jefferson had five assists apiece, and Creighton steals accounted for 16 of Nebraska’s 25 turnovers. It was the Cornhuskers’ most turnovers since they had 27 against Ohio State in 2012.
Teddy Allen led Nebraska with a career-high 26 points, Trey McGowens had 15 and Dalano Banton added 12.
The Huskers hung tough for a half and were within 44-40 at the break despite committing 12 turnovers.
“If we get those extra possessions we probably have a lead going into halftime,” Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We come out the second half, it was a four-point game, and they went on that monumental run on us and completely took over the game.
“When you turn the ball over and get them out in transition… They just crushed us with that tonight.”
Nebraska: Hoiberg can take heart this is a better team than the one he put on the floor a year ago against Creighton. Allen and Banton have been huge additions, and Hoiberg feels comfortable playing an eight-man rotation. The turnovers must be cleaned up, though.
Creighton: The Bluejays were a bit sluggish to start but finished with a flurry. Mahoney has picked up the scoring slack with 3-point specialist Mitch Ballock struggling to get shots, and Kalkbrenner, a 7-foot freshman, continues to make a good early impression.
Creighton rebounded from a 73-72 loss at No. 5 Kansas on Tuesday. Zegarowski, the Big East preseason player of the year, missed the third of three free throws with one second left to keep the Bluejays from sending the game to overtime.
Zegarowski said he was able to get over the disappointment with the help of his family, coaches and teammates.
“They told me to keep my head high and that you can’t put that loss on that one free throw,” Zegarowski said. “It’s life, and like Coach always tells me, that’s not going to be the worst thing that happens in my life. So keep moving. When stuff like that happens in life, you’ve got to bounce back. I think that’s what I did.”
Nebraska opens Big Ten play at No. 13 Wisconsin on Dec. 21.
Creighton hosts Marquette in its Big East opener Monday.
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