California (8-3) at Creighton (8-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, December 22, 7:07 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: CenturyLink Center Omaha (17,390) -- Omaha, Nebraska. Television: FS1. Home Record: California 7-0, Creighton 5-0. Away Record: California 0-1, Creighton 2-0. Neutral Record: California 1-2, Creighton 1-2. Conference Record: California 0-0, Creighton 0-0. Series Record: California leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: The Creighton Bluejays continue a five-game homestand to close out the 2013 calendar year, when they welcome the California Golden Bears to the CenturyLink Center for a non-conference matchup on Sunday evening.
Greg McDermott's Bluejays have won eight of their first 10 games. The two losses have come in back-to-back games against San Diego State and George Washington, but the team has won three straight games since then, including impressive wins over Nebraska (82-67) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (88-51) during this current homestand.
Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears are off to a similar start to their season, as they are 8-3 on the year. California also enters this contest with a brief two-game win streak in tow, topping Nevada (92-84) and Fresno State (67-56) in the last 12 days.
California won the first two meetings in this series, but Creighton got in the win column last year with a 74-64 win in Berkeley.
The Golden Bears offset a rather mediocre offensive performance, by commanding the boards, outrebounding Fresno State 47-34 and holding the Bulldogs to a mere .328 shooting performance in the 11-point win. Richard Solomon led the way with a double-double consisting of 17 points and 14 rebounds. He was aided in the scoring column by Justin Cobbs (13 pts), Tyrone Wallace (12 pts) and Ricky Kreklow (11 pts) and on the glass by David Kravish (12 rebs).
California isn't an offensive juggernaut, but the team has performed well at that end of the floor, averaging a steady 75.1 ppg on .453 shooting. The team has also enjoyed positive play on the boards, with a +6.5 rebounding margin. Cobbs is both the team's top scorer (13.9 ppg) and distributor (6.4 apg). Kravish (12.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and Solomon (12.0 ppg, 10.6 rpg) are a potent frontcourt tandem. Jabari Bird rounds out the team's top scoring threats at 11.9 ppg.
Creighton may not enjoy the balanced scoring that California does, but in terms of explosive players, the Bluejays boast perhaps the nation's best in All-American Doug McDermott. The 6-foot-8 senior has a bright future ahead of him in the NBA and is capping off a brilliant career with a stellar final season thus far. McDermott is shooting lights out from all over the floor, knocking down 50 percent from the floor overall, 44.1 percent from behind the arc, and 89 percent from the free-throw line, leading to a hefty 25.3 ppg. He is also the team's top rebounder at 7.1 rpg. Ethan Wragge is a distant second in the scoring column for Creighton with 12.5 ppg. Wragge is also an efficient sniper, shooting just under 50 percent from long range (38-of-77).
Creighton jumped all over UAPB last time out, leading 44-22 at the half and never looked back in the rout. McDermott was right on his average, just missing a double-double with 25 points and nine rebounds. Wragge tacked on 12 points, while Will Artino chipped in with 10 points off the bench.
Creighton is 49-1 in its last 50 home games against unranked opponents. That kind of homecourt advantage will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game. California will keep up, but McDermott will make enough plays down the stretch to give the Bluejays the win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Creighton 75, California 72
12/22 10:31:46 ET