DePaul alone in 1st in Big East with 70-60 win over Bluejays
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — It’s early, but surprising DePaul is alone in first place in the Big East.
The Blue Demons defeated Creighton 70-60 on Wednesday night and have won their first three Big East games for the first time since they joined the conference in 2005-06.
No one saw this coming for the team picked last in the 10-team league.
“We certainly felt as a group we were better than that. But we also understood we finished last last year and we had to prove it,” coach Oliver Purnell said.
So far, so good.
Forrest Robinson made his first five 3-pointers, all in the first six minutes of the game, and scored a career-high 20 points for the Blue Demons (9-7, 3-0), who already have matched last season’s Big East win total.
Creighton (9-7, 0-3) has lost its first three conference games for the first time since 1993-94, when it was in the Missouri Valley, and four in a row overall for the first time since 1999-2000. The Bluejays also had their 11-game home conference win streak end.
“This team won’t quit,” Bluejays coach Greg McDermott said. “They haven’t all year, and I don’t expect them to now. I think they’ll stick together.”
Toby Hegner had 15 points and Avery Dingman added 10 for Creighton.
Robinson scored all 15 of his first-half points in the opening six minutes. He swished four straight 3s, and after Aaron Simpson hit from deep, he got the shooter’s roll on a ball that hit the front of the rim and banked in off the backboard. Robinson finished with a career-high six 3s.
“When the ball goes in, it kicks it in gear and makes everything just go smooth and makes us want to play harder on defense,” Robinson said. “It just felt good out there from the jump.”
McDermott said the Blue Demons were able to build their big lead quickly because he made a poor decision by putting a big lineup on the floor to open the game.
“This loss falls squarely on my shoulders,” he said. “I put a starting lineup out there that was incapable of guarding their personnel. And before we could get it where we needed to be, we were down 20-5. I put us in a tough spot, and as I told the team, I’ll get better. And we need to get better, obviously.”
Robinson said he was surprised Creighton lost track of him on the perimeter.
“I had to take a deep breath and try to set me feet and not rush it when I’m wide open like that,” he said. “I’m not used to being that open. It was nice.”
The Blue Demons led by 16 points a little over seven minutes into the game after Durrell McDonald made the seventh of his team’s season high-matching 11 3s.
DePaul missed 10 of its next 13 shots, allowing Creighton to cut the lead to single digits. But a 9-0 spurt pushed DePaul’s cushion to 17 points before James Milliken’s 3 from the corner made it 39-25 at half.
Hegner’s 3-pointer ended an 11-2 run that pulled Creighton to 49-43. Billy Garrett’s 3-pointer finished a 13-5 run that pushed DePaul’s lead back to 14 points with 5:10 to play.
Creighton wasn’t done, though. A pair of three-point plays by Dingman and Isaiah Zierden’s 3-pointer cut it to 66-60 with two minutes left. The Bluejays got no closer.
“I give our team credit for recognizing that Creighton would make a run,” Purnell said. “Our guys knew it was coming, and they didn’t get rattled.”
DePaul: The Blue Demons wore their red road uniforms for the first time this season. ... Robinson had nine rebounds and Garrett had six assists to go with his nine points.
Creighton: The Bluejays were without guard Rick Kreklow, who had stomach flu. ... Creighton is shooting 34.3 percent from the field the last four games, 26.5 percent on 3s.
DePaul visits Villanova on Saturday.
Creighton hosts Seton Hall on Saturday.