LINCOLN — What took place Thursday night at the Devaney Center was about what you would expect when a nationally ranked team plays one picked to finish last in its league.
No. 16 Creighton, in its first true road game, scuffled through the first six minutes, cranked up its defense to build an 11-point halftime lead, then ignited its offense to pull away to a 64-42 victory over Nebraska in front of a sellout crowd of 13,368.
CU All-America forward Doug McDermott shook off an honorable mention all-conference type of first half (3-of-9 shooting, two turnovers) to finish with 27 points.
But he was hardly the lone contributor.
“Look at it,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said, scanning the box score. “One player gets 27 points. Another player gets 12 rebounds (Gregory Echenique). A different player gets 10 assists (Grant Gibbs). And another player gets three 3s (Ethan Wragge).
“That's a few pieces to the puzzle. I was really impressed. They are going to be hard for a lot of people to beat.”
Especially when Creighton (8-1) plays defense like it did, holding Nebraska to season lows in points (42) and shooting (32.1 percent).
The Bluejays needed something to cling to after a scary episode in pregame warm-ups. Senior sixth man Josh Jones, who has had previous heart problems, fainted and was taken to a local hospital. No immediate health update was available
CU coach Greg McDermott said he and his team were shaken at the start, but that the players settled down by guarding hard.
“Our defense was really important tonight,” he said. “Nebraska did a good job of taking us out of our offensive flow the first half.”
The Huskers (6-2) never really got any offensive flow established, other than early in the second half when they traded baskets with CU for about five minutes. The lowlights included a first-half drought of 6:05 and making just four baskets in the final 13 minutes before intermission.
“We really executed the plan,” McDermott said. “There were certain guys it was obvious we were OK with them shooting. And we were going to take away some other guys.”
Creighton cracked down hardest on Nebraska guard Ray Gallegos, who was coming off back-to-back 20-point games against Wake Forest and USC. He scored just five points and made 1 of 5 3-pointers.
“Jahenns Manigat had as good a game for someone who didn't score a point as I've ever coached,” McDermott said. “He made it tough for Ray the entire night, and we really thought that was the key.
“If you let Ray and (Dylan) Talley get in rhythm, you're asking for it.”
Talley led Nebraska with 14 points, but was 5 of 16 from the field. The Huskers also got 10 points and eight rebounds from forward Brandon Ubel and six points, five rebounds and four blocks from center Andre Almeida.
But Nebraska's newcomers to this rivalry combined for only three baskets in 15 shots, plus six turnovers.
“Our new guys played like new guys,” Miles said. “Anybody who was new to the program looked like, 'Holy cow, look at all the people here. This must be a big game, and we're playing a ranked team.' ”
Creighton, up 28-17 at halftime, got it to 36-21 less than three minutes into the second half with help from Miles' first technical foul at NU.
Doug McDermott drove down the lane and went airborne. He came to the floor with the ball, then went up and scored. Miles screamed for a traveling call, but instead was assessed a technical. McDermott made both free throws.
Nebraska never got closer than 13 points in the final 17 minutes.
“It's a disappointing loss for Husker fans,” Miles said. “We wanted to come out and compete and make it a game right down to the last possession.
“We didn't, and that's beyond disappointing to me. But it's still a learning experience for this team. We're going to try to build our program to where we're on the other end of this outcome.”
Contact the writer:
* * *
• Video: Tim Miles postgame press conference:
• Video: Creighton postgame press conference: