No. 25 Creighton cruises past USC Upstate 116-62
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Creighton coach Greg McDermott was at least a little concerned going into Wednesday’s game, with his team playing for the second time in three nights and probably looking forward to a three-day Christmas break.
McDermott didn’t have to worry for long.
No. 25 Creighton was all business against USC Upstate, shooting nearly 70 percent in a 58-point first half on its way to a 116-62 victory.
“I was really pleased with the start of the game,” McDermott said. “You worry as the guys prepare to go home to see their families for a few days, on what the level of focus will be. I’m proud of the guys that they were locked in.”
Marcus Foster made 6 of 7 shots and scored all 16 of his points in the first half, two nights after having a season-high 32 points in a 90-81 win over UT Arlington. The Bluejays (10-2) had a school-record 32 assists and 12 players had at least two baskets.
Creighton won its fifth straight game and scored at least 90 points for the eighth time, with a Dec. 28 trip to Seton Hall up next.
“It’s a great feeling to be 10-2 right now,” senior Toby Hegner said. “We’re sitting pretty good and we’re playing really well, and there’s no better feeling than going into Big East play like a train.”
Creighton was a locomotive in the first half against USC Upstate, making 22 of 32 shots (68.8 percent) to race ahead 58-24. Upstate (4-11) was all but left behind when the Bluejays ran off 13 straight points for a 24-8 lead, with the last five of those coming from freshman Mitch Ballock on two free throws and a 3-pointer.
Foster then made two 3-pointers and added a three-point play as Creighton stretched its advantage to 45-15 with 6:04 left before halftime.
Backup guard Kaleb Joseph had eight of the Bluejays’ assists, but six teammates had at least three apiece.
“It was obvious from the start that the ball moved, and the willingness to make an extra pass (was there),” McDermott said.
The Bluejays kept coming with 15 points in the first 4:04 of the second half, capped by consecutive 3-pointers from Khyri Thomas, Martin Krampelj and Hegner. They already had reached 101 by the 4:55 mark on a 3-pointer by Davion Mintz.
Creighton made 19 of 34 3-point shots, bumping its season percentage to 39.6 from behind the arc. Upstate made just 5 of 28, playing on the road for the seventh time in eight games.
“We’ve been on the road and all that, but I was disappointed in the way we played,” Spartans coach Kyle Perry said.
Perry was more impressed with Creighton, and its transition game in particular.
“It’s unbelievable,” Perry said. “We even told our kids, when you watch ’em on tape, at times it’s almost like they’re on fast-forward, because they are really, really fast with the ball. They get it up the floor, and make or miss fast.”
Hegner and Ballock added 13 points apiece for Creighton. Malik Moore led Upstate with 15 points and six rebounds.
USC UPSTATE: In fairness to the Spartans, it’s been a challenging stretch with seven of their last eight games on the road. That will put the emphasis on Upstate making the most of back-to-back home games before it starts Atlantic Sun play on Jan. 6.
CREIGHTON: The Bluejays are not lacking for confidence or offensive rhythm heading into the start of Big East play, but a trip to Seton Hall on Dec. 28 will be a different kind of challenge. But nonconference wins over Northwestern, UCLA and Nebraska have been good for this team.
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS
Creighton reached the 10-win mark before Christmas for the sixth time in school history and the fourth time under McDermott, including a 12-0 start a year ago. Four of the previous five Creighton teams to reach 10 wins by Dec. 25 made the NCAA Tournament.
TWENTY MINUTES WELL SPENT
Creighton is no stranger to 50-point first halves, doing it four times already this season (and twice this week). Its 58-24 advantage on Wednesday night also was its second-largest halftime lead since moving into the CenturyLink Center in 2003, behind only a 62-25 difference last December against Longwood.
USC Upstate hosts North Greenville on Dec. 30
Creighton plays at Seton Hall on Dec. 28
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