Nebraska was looking to snap a three-game losing streak to rival Creighton, but it was the Bluejays who used a strong defensive effort to put away the Huskers on their home court
LINCOLN — Creighton conducted a basketball clinic Sunday night that Nebraska would have gladly paid a fee not to take part in.
The Bluejays played strong defense in both halves and fired up their offense in the second to thump the Huskers 65-55, becoming the first nonconference opponent to win in Pinnacle Bank Arena.
NU's only loss in 20 previous home games in its 2-year-old palace was 71-70 last year to Michigan. Many red-clad folks in the overflow crowd of 15,782 trudged to the exits early.
"We emptied our own gym, and that's never fun," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. "That's the first time that's happened. That's kind of a low point for any coach."
Nebraska, coming off a road win at Florida State, looked ready to improve to 6-1 by jumping to a 24-14 lead with 5:25 to go in the first half. Creighton, coming off a road loss to Hilsa, dug in while down 10 points instead of buckling.
From there, the Bluejays (7-2) outscored the Huskers 51-31, outshot them 53-34 percent and committed four fewer turnovers. NU's 55 points was a season low.
"This is an unbelievable win for us," CU coach Greg McDermott said, "in front of a great crowd."
It was an unlikely win, too.
This was the year Nebraska, with all five starters back, was supposed to break its three-game skid in the series. Creighton has four new starters and is without first-round NBA draft choice Doug McDermott. Adding to NU's advantage was the home court.
So how did the unexpected happen?
"That goes on me," Miles said. "I thought Greg had a better game plan
than I had, and they deserve the victory.
"I thought we could come out and run what we run and beat them. I was wrong and he was right. I thought we were ready to play. That wasn't it. We weren't able to take away the things they took away with us."
On defense, Creighton wanted to play soft on everyone but Nebraska's leading scorers Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields.
Petteway hit his average of 21 points, but was 8 of 20 from the field. Shields, averaging 20 points, scored seven — all in the second half — on 3 of 10 shooting. Letting other Huskers go worked, too. Starting forward Walter Pitchford shot 1 of 9, missing all five 3-pointers. Backup wing Tai Webster was 1 of 5.
CU got 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists from point guard Austin Chatman, and the team shook loose for five 3-pointers in each half.
"It's a heckuva win for us at this stage of the season for this group of guys," McDermott said. "To come on the road against a team as good as Nebraska and really execute our game plan almost to perfection ... was really good."
Nebraska's performance was shaky even while building its 10-point lead. Petteway had 11 points in the first nine minutes, but it looked like fool's gold to Miles.
"(Creighton) guarded with five guys," Miles said. "I thought they did a great job in team defense. All the stuff Petteway got early was kind of on his own. We'd run a play but he'd make a tough shot."
From the time Nebraska went ahead 24-14 until halftime, Creighton scored 13 points on eight possessions while NU had two on eight trips.
"We took three bad shots," Miles said. "And we had a couple of open shots we missed."
In the second half, Nebraska rebuilt a five-point lead at 36-31. Creighton followed with back-to-back 3-pointers from Chatman and wing Ricky Kreklow, then got another 3 from guard Isaiah Zierden with 12:27 left to claim the lead for good.
Any comeback attempt was stopped by Creighton holding the Huskers to 11 points in the final nine minutes.
"And two of those were a gimme with 34 seconds left," Miles said.
Nebraska's plan was to not let Zierden shoot 3s at all. But the sophomore from Minneapolis hit 3 of 6 3s on his way to 13 points.
"We didn't have enough urgency in the second half," Petteway said. "It's mental. We've got to stay locked in to personnel.
"Like No. 21 (Zierden). We let him get open looks. He's a good shooter. He shoots like 47 percent from 3. When you give him open looks, the rest of the team starts feeding off him. Then everybody started knocking them down."
The victory was Creighton's 13th in the past 16 regular-season meetings with Nebraska, which led to a query about the Bluejays being in the Huskers' heads.
"Hard to tell," Miles said. "They're not in my head. I really thought we were going to win. I don't think they're in our guys' heads.
"I don't think that's why we lost. I think we lost because some old habits snuck out again — some bad shot selection and bad decision-making."
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