GAME NOTES: The 15th-ranked Creighton Bluejays begin action in the Las Vegas Invitational, when they play host to the Presbyterian Blue Hose at the CenturyLink Center.
There is plenty to be excited about in Omaha this year, as four starters return from a team that won 29 games a year ago. One of those four, Doug McDermott, is the only returning First-Team All-American, after being tabbed the Missouri Valley Conference Player of Year a season ago. The Blujays are in the midst of a season-opener four-game homestand, having already beaten North Texas (71-51) and UAB (77-60). The team will close out its homestand on Nov. 20 against Longwood.
The Blue Hose continue an arduous start to their season, with road games at a couple of ACC schools prior to this contest. The current road trip has failed to produce any fruit, with lopsided losses at Clemson (77-44) and Georgia Tech (52-38).
This is the first time these two teams have ever met.
The offensive numbers through two games aren't very encouraging, with Presbyterian averaging an ugly 41.0 ppg. Joshua Clyburn has been the top performer in both the scoring column (11.5 ppg) and on the boards (8.5 rpg).
It was an extremely poor performance at Georgia Tech this past week, as the Blue Hose managed a meager 38 total points. The team finished the game with just 15 made field goals, while getting outrebounded 34-20 and turning the ball over 18 times. Khalid Mutakabbir made the only significant offensive contribution, finishing with 13 points and seven assists. Clyburn had just four points in the loss, a far cry from the 19 points he scored in the season- opener.
Two games isn't exactly a big enough sample to get a good gauge on a team's strengths and weaknesses, but it does look like Creighton has something going on at the defensive end of the floor. Foes are shooting just .348 from the floor, while netting 55.5 ppg. McDermott averaged 22.9 ppg last season, and picked up right where he left off with a 21-point outburst in the opener against North Texas.
The win over UAB was completely different though, as McDermott scored just five points, taking a backseat to center Gregory Echenique, who recorded a double-double with 13 points and 16 rebounds (tied his career-high). Josh Jones led the Bluejays in the scoring column with 18 points, while Ethan Wragge was able to chip in with 12 points off the bench. Creighton really had a tough time with UAB, trailing the Blazers by 10 points in the second half, before going on runs of 12-0 and 17-0 to pick up what appears to be a comfortable win in the stat page.
Presbyterian has really taken on an ambitious schedule to date, but lacks the personnel to get the job done against big programs, especially on their own floor. Look for McDermott to once again find his groove, leading the Bluejays to the lopsided win.