• Photo Showcase: Creighton vs. South Dakota
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Chicago Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry was among the crowd of 4,348 Tuesday night at the Civic Auditorium to watch Creighton's first-round CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament game.
“I show up for all the big events,” Hendry said before the Bluejays posted an 89-78 victory against South Dakota.
Hendry, the Bluejays' former baseball coach, had been in Omaha for a speaking engagement. His comment, made tongue in cheek, did underscore some of the mixed feelings that Creighton fans have for seeing their team play in the 2-year-old CIT.
Creighton coach Dana Altman is well aware that a segment of the fan base would have preferred the Bluejays to just call it a season after a loss to Bradley in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament left them 16-15.
“There's been a lot of debate about that, but we just have to play,” Altman said. “We have a lot of young guys out there. We have a lot of freshmen out there, and our point guard is just in his second year.
“We only had two seniors out there, and we just have to play more games. I know people have an opinion on this and that, but we just needed to play, and I'm glad someone invited us.”
Wayne Runnels, a 6-foot-6 junior wrapping up his first year after transferring from junior college, said the Bluejays are trying to finish off the season on a positive note.
“We need some sort of momentum to carry us into next year,” Runnels said.
Another home game Monday at Civic
The turnouts for Tuesday's other CIT games saw 5,003 fans show up for the game at Marshall and 2,062 attend the contest at George Mason.
The largest opening-round crowd last year was the 4,472 that showed up for Bradley's home game with Austin Peay.
Attendance obviously is a deciding factor in determining home games as the CIT moves into additional rounds. No brackets were set for the tournament, but teams were “seeded” on their potential drawing power at the box office. Creighton was ranked fourth behind Marshall, Southern Mississippi and Missouri State.
Tuesday's win earned Creighton a second-round home game Monday at the Civic. The university will announce ticket information Wednesday.
Teammates bail out Lawson, Carter
Altman praised a number of players for stepping up to counter an off night for Kenny Lawson and Justin Carter. The pair went 1 for 15 from the field, with Lawson failing to make a field goal for the first time this season.
Runnels scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds, his best game since the season opener in mid-November. Cavel Witter and Darryl Ashford each had their best games in more than six weeks, finishing with 15 and 13 points, respectively.
Junior Kaleb Korver added nine points, one fewer than his total for the past nine games. He made 3 of 4 3-pointers, his best shooting display since he went 4 of 8 from beyond the arc in scoring a season-high 12 points in a Nov. 22 win over Arkansas-Little Rock.
“I thought Wayne and Darryl both had good games,” Altman said. “And it was a big game for Kaleb. That was Kaleb of a year ago. He hit 41 3s last year and shot 42 percent. It was good to see him shoot the ball like that and just letting it go.
“He missed his first one in the first half, but those three he made in the second half were really, really good shots. And defensively, I thought he played pretty hard.”
Bits and pieces
Ethan Wragge's four 3-pointers pushed his season total to 63 and tied the school record for a freshman. Ryan Sears made 63 in his freshman season in 1997-98, and Kyle Korver matched that as a freshman in 1999-2000. Wragge also ran his freshman-record streak of 3-pointers in consecutive games to 19. ... Creighton had just one turnover in the first half to 13 assists. The Bluejays finished with 20 assists and 11 turnovers. ... Perhaps the most impressive Coyote was 6-8 senior Tyler Cain, who had 12 points, nine rebounds, four assists and seven blocked shots. The Great West Conference's player of the year played 36 minutes. “He's a good player, real physical, but I thought he got a little tired,” Altman said. “But he's really a wide body.'' ... Creighton, playing just its second game in 17 days, trailed just twice, at 8-7 and 11-9. “We've really struggled the last 10, 12 years in getting off to decent starts in every tournament game we've played,” Altman said. “Bowling Green was up on us 14 last year, and we struggled to come back. But we shot the ball well, which gave us energy and got us bouncing around a little bit. And our depth was a factor.”
— Steven Pivovar