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BASKETBALL

Last week's success propelled Creighton basketball to No. 15. This week, the Jays are aiming higher

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Christian Bishop

Christian Bishop dunks on DePaul on Saturday. Last week was a pretty good week for Creighton basketball. But this next week could be even better.

Last week was a pretty good week for Creighton basketball.

But this next week could be even better.

The CU players reconvened Sunday with that in mind — their thirst for competition not yet quenched.

It’s why they weren’t talking about the Damien Jefferson hustle play at Seton Hall Wednesday that made ESPN’s “SportsCenter” or the big-time shots late in that same game that helped them clinch their second road win over a top-10 team this year. Nor were they discussing Saturday’s victory over DePaul, when seemingly every Bluejay either rattled the rim with a dunk or splashed in a crowd-pleasing 3-pointer.

They’re having fun, certainly.

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Sophomore Christian Bishop was dancing in the locker room Wednesday and grooving on the sidelines Saturday. Jefferson admitted before practice Monday that he can’t help but feel a sense of pride when he thinks about the improvement this team has shown. Junior Ty-Shon Alexander was smiling ear-to-ear when reporters asked him about Creighton’s rise in the AP Top 25 poll — CU checked in at No. 15 Monday, its highest ranking in three years.

But the Jays want more.

“We play our butts off and we haven’t let down yet,” Alexander said. “We’ve just got to keep it going, keep getting these dubs and keep playing hard because nobody expected us to be 15th in the country. We’ve got to keep working.”

There’s plenty at stake.

The Jays (20-6, 9-4) are one game behind first-place Seton Hall (18-7, 10-3) in the Big East standings — so they can’t afford many more slipups if they want to remain in the title race. CU, with an NET ranking of No. 13, also just might be a couple of signature wins away from inserting itself into the conversation for a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Here’s the challenge, though: Creighton’s next two opponents are elite.

CU first plays at No. 19 Marquette (17-7, 7-5), which has won six of its last eight games and will have benefited from nearly a full week off when it takes the floor against the Jays on Tuesday. Then comes a Sunday matchup against No. 21 Butler (19-7, 7-6), which handled the Jays 71-57 one month ago in Indianapolis.

And neither team will be underestimating Creighton, which hasn’t been ranked this high since it was a program-best No. 7 on Jan. 16, 2017. The last time CU was a top-15 team in the month of February came during the milestone 2013-14 season.

“(We know) that teams are trying to come at us,” freshman Shereef Mitchell said. “(It’s about) having our A-game every time, coming out and competing hard and just playing Bluejay ball.”

They’ve done that lately.

Creighton’s shooting 54.5% from the floor (45.3% from 3-point range) in its last three wins. It’s assisted on 63.9% of its made field goals. It’s averaging 1.23 points per possession.

CU’s 7-1 record since Jan. 16 is sixth-best among major-conference teams — and tops in its own league. The Jays dismantled DePaul by 29 points Saturday, picking up the most lopsided win by any team during Big East play.

Yet when the players met with the coaching staff on Sunday to watch game film, they reviewed a couple clips highlighting miscues they made against DePaul the day before. After all, there were 19 turnovers. Then they immediately started watching video of Marquette.

“We put all our focus on what we have next,” Alexander said. “That’s how we need to be.”

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