Drake’s blistering offensive start proved to be too much for Creighton to overcome in a 75-62 defeat in its season opener Wednesday.
The Bulldogs didn’t miss a shot until halfway through the first quarter. They started 7 of 7 from the field and held a 29-17 lead at the end of the opening period.
They executed inside, with cuts to the basket and efficient post-ups. They nailed shots from the perimeter and made plays in transition, too. And Creighton, which was playing without starting point guard Tatum Rembao (COVID-19 isolation protocols) couldn’t find an answer until it was too late.
“Overall, we’re going to have to be better out of the gate,” Creighton coach Jim Flanery said.
But it was difficult to know what to expect Wednesday, given the circumstances, according to Flanery.
About 50 friends and family members — all wearing face masks — spaced out in the seats on the D.J. Sokol Arena’s east end. No one sat in the bleachers behind the team benches. The speaker system still played music during breaks in the action, the scoreboard buzzer still blared when substitutes entered and the PA updates still echoed through the gym.
But there were no cheerleaders, and no band. A chair-sized gap separated each of the players’ cushioned seats along the sideline. Most of the Jays players had masks on even while playing.
“It’s definitely different. The world we’re living in is different,” said senior guard Temi Carda, who led the team with 18 points. “But my outlook on it, is I’m just grateful to be playing.”
Drake looked locked in from the start. Carda said one of the reasons CU started to close the gap after halftime was that the Jays were able to match the Bulldogs’ intensity and effort.
Creighton did pull within 57-46 toward the end of the third quarter. But Drake answered with a 9-2 spurt to end the period. It maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way to clinch its third straight win in this annual series.
» CU freshman forward Emma Ronsiek finished with 13 points, six rebounds and four blocks in her debut. She was one of five freshmen who played.
» Flanery said the face masks may have led to some communication issues Wednesday. He noticed three different occasions when players subbed in for the wrong teammate. Many of the Jays wore masks to lower the risk of team-wide quarantine due to contact-tracing guidelines, Flanery said.
» CU will next play at Northern Iowa Saturday.