Turnovers helped turn the tide as Creighton lost to Tennessee.
The Bluejays gave up the ball 19 times, including 10 in the first half. But senior guard Ally Jensen indicated they hurt more after the break.
In the first half, she said, turnovers led to layups. “In the first half, (they) got the crowd into it and got them going. In the second half they just got 3s (after turnovers) ... I don’t think anything in particular changed in the second half. They were still kind of the same turnovers that led to transition, they just got open 3s instead of layups.”
Coach Jim Flanery said his team’s goal was to use Tennessee’s pressure against it. “We wanted to kind of elongate possessions to take advantage of what we do well, which is screen, cut and play more of a motion offense. I thought there were times when we did that.”
Ultimately, he said the Lady Vols were able to speed his team up with their athleticism and length.
“Defensively, I thought they won the game at that end of the floor,” he said.
Tennessee’s fan base is one of the country’s most loyal, and it showed on Monday night.
The game was played at Thompson-Boling Arena, home court of the Lady Vols, and the crowd of 6,313 was dominated by Tennessee fans.
During the regular season, the largest audience for a Bluejay game came on Dec. 30, when a crowd of 3,486 saw the Golden Gophers hand Creighton an 88-81 overtime loss in Minneapolis.
Tennessee, which won the Southeastern Conference regular season title, had never lost an NCAA tournament game at home, and Creighton coach Jim Flanery said the vocal crowd added to the difficulty of playing against the Lady Vols’ defensive pressure.
“Basically having to be a road game, I think kids get sped up even more when the crowd gets into the game. ... During that one stretch, that became a little bit of an issue,” he said.
Jays in good position
The season may have ended with a loss, but Flanery saw plenty of positives as Creighton prepares to join the Big East.
The coach said he told his team that the finish was a great springboard into next year and that joining a new league will be a challenge.
“We’ve got some work to do, but I think … 25 wins and second round of the NCAA tournament, our kids should feel really good about where we are and hopefully, you know, our performance helps us in recruiting,” he said.
The coach also praised his two seniors, Jensen of Ames, Iowa, and guard Jasmin Corbin, a product of Millard West High School who suffered a career-ending ACL tear on Nov. 25.
“They’re just both undersized and not heavily recruited but have both made a really large impact on our program,” he said. “And just the kind of kids that you enjoy working with in practice and are great teammates and find ways to make our team better.”
Defense stays grounded
When it came to defense, Tennessee guard Kamiko Williams said the challenge for her team was guarding the Bluejays’ outside shooters: “getting out there and keeping a hand up at all times. ... They’ll pump fake, they’ll get you in the air,” she said.
The guard said the Lady Vols were focused on one-on-one defense and “just staying in the stance the whole time.”
The strategy worked. After averaging 9.3 3-pointers per game coming into the tournament, Creighton made only four on Monday night, a season low.
Watching their backs
The Bluejays got an early reminder about defensive fundamentals during Monday’s game.
Less than four minutes into the game, Tennessee’s Williams was inbounding the ball under her own goal.
When Creighton’s Alyssa Kamphaus turned her back to the baseline, Williams simply threw the ball off of the defender, caught it herself and laid it in for an easy score.
Nelson hits 1,000
Junior forward Sarah Nelson’s first NCAA tournament experience pushed her past the 1,000-point barrier.
In Saturday’s game against Syracuse, Nelson became the 25th Bluejay to reach the benchmark. She scored only three points against Tennessee, but now has 1,017 for her career.
— Josh Flory