Creighton's memory of last season's NCAA women's basketball tournament motivates the Bluejays heading into Saturday's game against Syracuse.
Creighton saw its season end last March when St. John's scored with one-tenth of a second to play in a 69-67 victory.
“That gives us a little chip on our shoulders,” forward Sarah Nelson said. “Normally, people are pretty sad when their season ends, but we all got in the locker room and thought, 'Did that seriously just happen?'
“We were more mad than anything. We're excited to have another chance to be here.”
The 10th-seeded Bluejays will get a chance to extend their season when they take on the seventh-seeded Orange in a 10:20 a.m. CDT game at Knoxville, Tenn. Both teams bring 24-7 records into the game at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The winner likely will get a crack at second-seeded Tennessee, which plays No. 15 Oral Roberts in the other first-round game.
Creighton is making its second tournament appearance as an at-large team and fifth overall. Syracuse, which is ranked 22nd, also is making its fifth appearance but its first since 2008.
One of Bluejay coach Jim Flanery's concerns is how his team will handle Syracuse's 2-3 zone defense. Creighton is among the national leaders in 3-point shooting but has had difficulty at times against zones.
“We have not played one team this year that is an exclusive zone team, and that's what Syracuse is,” Flanery said. “From that standpoint, our preparation was a little bit easier because we know they're going to play zone.
“We're going to shoot a lot of 3s. That's what we do. We took 44 in a game two weeks ago. I don't think we'll be at that number, but we're not that big. We don't have people that can beat you off the dribble.”
The teams share a common opponent in South Florida. Creighton posted a 91-74 win in a December tournament in Cancun, Mexico. South Florida won 68-66 at home against Syracuse on Feb. 23.
Those outcomes will give his team some confidence, but Flanery said he's trying to keep things in perspective. The Bluejays made 16 of 29 3-pointers against South Florida.
“We were really hot,” he said. “I remember two or three times during the second half I turned to the bench and said, 'Can we keep this up?' I don't think if we played South Florida 10 times we would beat them by 17.
“I'm not saying we couldn't beat them again, but we were very hot that game. I think that game does figure into our belief that we can be successful against Syracuse.”
Creighton guard Carli Tritz said it does.
“I know sometimes you go into a game thinking 'how are we going to compete with a team from the Big East?'” she said. “It's not about the conference. We played well against St. John's last year, and they are a Big East team.
“Then we look at that South Florida game. At this point, you have to ignore what conference you play in and just go out and compete. If we do that, we'll be OK.”
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