Land the first punch.
That's one of Creighton's every-game objectives, and it becomes even more important Thursday night when the No. 16 Bluejays play their first true road game of the season at Nebraska.
“When you're on the road, the quicker you can send that message that you came to play, the better,” Creighton center Gregory Echenique said. “I'm pretty sure we'll have some fans travel, but they will have more.
“But if we can throw that first punch, we could have a good advantage.”
Creighton has been fairly adept at delivering the first blow this season, with the one notable exception coming in the Nov. 28 home game against Boise State. The Broncos came out of the gate strong, led by six at halftime and never allowed the Bluejays to regain the momentum in posting an 83-70 win.
Creighton came out three days later and felled St. Joseph's with a haymaker of an opening flurry. The Bluejays led 12-3, 19-5, 34-10 and 45-15 at the four media timeouts in the first half and coasted to an 80-51 victory over a team that is picked to win the Atlantic-10 this season.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott wouldn't mind seeing a similar effort when his team makes its final appearance at the Devaney Center.
“I think any time you can take the crowd out of the game, it's to your advantage,” McDermott said. “It sounds easy to do, but it's not easy. I'm hoping that we can pull that off tomorrow night.”
Creighton has had the crowd on its side in each of its first eight games, playing at home six times. Even when the Bluejays played neutral-court games against Wisconsin and Arizona State in Las Vegas, Creighton fans outnumbered the opposition by at least 2 to 1.
“This is going to be a big test for us on the road,” Creighton forward Doug McDermott said. “It's going to be a packed house. It should be a great atmosphere, just like any other Creighton-Nebraska game.”
Neither McDermott nor his father are surprised by the 6-1 start the Huskers have gotten off to under new coach Tim Miles. Greg McDermott and Miles have known and coached against each other for close to two decades.
Most preseason forecasts had Nebraska picked as a Big Ten bottom feeder, but the Huskers have played well under Miles. Their past two wins came against teams from the Atlantic Coast and Pac-12 conferences.
“I knew they were going to be a little better than people thought,” Doug McDermott said. “They had some experienced guys coming back, and they want to win, as do we. Coach Miles has done a great job, and we have to be ready.
“This is going to be a great challenge for us.”
Miles ruffled some feathers of Creighton's sometimes sensitive fan base when, during an interview during a Husker football game, he referred to Nebraska as the “only show in the state.”
Doug McDermott said Miles' comment created little stir in the Creighton locker room and that it hasn't been brought up in the days leading up to the game.
His dad was asked if he was offended by Miles' comment.
“Tim has offended me in much better ways than that,” said McDermott, suppressing a smile. “Tim's a great guy and a good friend, and I don't put much stock into that.”
He knows some of his fans probably did, as the annual meeting between the teams seems to carry greater importance with each team's respective fan base than with the players and coaches.
“I just think it's good for basketball in the state,” Greg McDermott said. “People care about it, and it reminds me of the feel that Iowa-Iowa State had when I was at Iowa State. It's a good, healthy college rivalry.”
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