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No. 11 UConn hands Creighton women first Big East loss

No. 11 UConn hands Creighton women first Big East loss

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Jon Nyatawa discusses the Jays crazy finish at Marquette and a busy few weeks ahead.

Three Bluejay players were still on the court, toeing the 3-point arc, after the team completed the day's preparations for one of the toughest weekends of the season.

They needed a few more shots. So they lured assistant coach Jordann Reese out there for a friendly game of P-I-G.

Well, as friendly as it gets with this group.

Creighton's team has been known to raise the intensity on seemingly nonchalant past-times — they split the squad in half for their version of "Minute to Win It" and Tatum Rembao still laughs about it now because of all the yelling they did that night.

They've played seemingly every card game. And telephone and charades. Someone brought a putter on a road trip so the players built a course with plastic cups and battled it out in a hotel lobby.

Their intrasquad scrimmage inside Butler's practice gym on Dec. 31 featured stretches with game-like effort plays. Coach Jim Flanery had inserted himself and his staff into the impromptu workout so the players could get some laughs on the day that COVID canceled their game. The Jays couldn't stop themselves. They had to go all out.

When sophomore Lauren Jensen got eliminated from that P-I-G game Thursday, she motioned like she was about to drop-kick her basketball into the D.J. Sokol Arena stands. Then she smiled. She was kidding ... Sort of.

"It's just a product of the personalities that we have," senior Rachael Saunders said. "Everyone is super competitive and wants to win and do their best — but we're all great friends who love spending time together."

That's why things are going so well for the Jays this year.

Before Sunday's 63-55 setback at No. 11 UConn, Creighton had jumped out to a 5-0 start in Big East play for the first time since joining the league.

It snapped a four-game losing streak to Marquette with a convincing 62-45 win Friday. Its NET ranking sat at No. 25 Sunday. CU produced a 5-3 record against the 10th-toughest nonconference schedule in the country.

The Jays' rotation goes 10-deep, with no one averaging more than 30 minutes. Anybody can be the centerpiece within the offense — they all willingly force-feed the hot hands, celebrating the assists maybe even more than the buckets.

There was the time at Providence when sophomore Lauren Jensen dropped 17 in the first quarter. At Xavier on Jan. 2, sophomore Morgan Maly hit three 3-pointers in 54 seconds. Sophomore Emma Ronsiek has cleared the 20-point mark twice.

"I think it's really hard for teams to scout us and say, oh, we can gap off this player and be more mindful of the other," Ronsiek said. "You can't do that. You can't really gap off one player against us."

No one had it going at UConn on Sunday, though.

Creighton shot a season-low 20.0% from 3-point range (5 of 25) and committed 17 turnovers. The Huskies (7-3, 2-0) were as vulnerable as they get, too, coming off a COVID pause and operating with a limited roster. But ultimately their length and athleticism kept CU from settling in offensively.

And that'll sting.

Certainly, the Jays (10-4, 5-1) will find encouragement from being the first league team in nine years to come within 10 points on UConn's home court. But they aren't playing for moral victories.

"Our kids are disappointed we didn't win," Flanery said after the defeat Sunday. "To go on the road and be in the game for most of three quarters is good, but we've got a lot of room for growth."

CU is scheduled to return home this weekend for games against Seton Hall (Friday) and St. John's (Sunday).


Omaha World-Herald: Local Sports

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