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December 23, 2011

Jays are humble even in victory

The 23rd ranked Creighton Bluejays wrapped up, what was an already impressive non- conference slate, on Thursday, as they welcomed their stiffest test of the year, Northwestern, in front of 17,676 Bluejay faithful.

In the early moments of the game, Northwestern proved their worth by never allowing the Jays to open up a comfortable lead. With just over 12 minutes left in the first half, Creighton star, Doug McDermott picked up his second foul and made his way to the bench, for the remainder of the half. The Wildcats pounced on their opportunity to take control of the game. With less than six minutes left in the opening half, the Bluejays found themselves down eight, with their biggest scoring threat parked on the bench. Things seemed to be going the Wildcats' way early. The noteworthy, individual performance of the first half came from the Wildcats squad, as Drew Crawford erupted for 19 points on 9-11 shooting.

Instead of backing down, the Bluejays responded with a 12-3 run to close the half, fueled by baskets by Antoine Young, and consecutive threes by sharpshooter, Ethan Wragge. McDermott spoke about how difficult it was to watch the majority of the half, while cheering on his teammates.

"It was a tough start, getting two quick ones (fouls). I was on the bench cheering for my teammates. Ethan Wragge got it going, we got the ball into Greg (Echenique) and it was a good first half," said McDermott.

The second half went a little more favorably for McDermott and his fellow Bluejays. Instead of the Bluejays being foul trouble, it was the Wildcats worried about the whistles. Crawford, the Wildcat's most lethal threat in the first half, found himself with four fouls and fourteen minutes to play, and his Wildcats nursing a one point lead. McDermott scored on the following play to give the Bluejays the lead, and they would never trail again on their way to an 87-79 victory. Northwestern head coach, Bill Carmody was complementary of both teams in his post game press conference.

"I didn't realize, I guess, how good of a passing team they were (Creighton). We saw a lot of nice stuff out there; they basically got the shots they wanted. They all have their roles, and they're just a nice team," said Carmody. "I didn't think we played that badly, they just played better."

Although he was slowed by foul trouble, Crawford continued his incredible night adding 15 second half points, giving him a total of 34, before fouling out. The Wildcats' leading scoring, John Shurna, followed Crawford up with 18 points, and Davide Curletti was the final Wildcat in double figures adding 10.

The Bluejays had five players in double figures, and were led by none other than Doug McDermott. McDermott made 10-14 shots from the field and all five of his free throws for 27 points. Antoine Young added 13 points, Gregory Echenique and Jahenns Manigat each scored 11, while Wragge hit 3 of 6 threes and converted a four point-play to give him 10.

While scoring wasn't in the cards for Grant Gibbs, he still had a large impact on the game, by snagging eight rebounds and dished out, a CenturyLink Center record, 12 assists. Gibbs wasn't too eager to take credit for his impressive performance sharing the rock.

"I don't feel like I'm doing anything special; they're just knocking down shots," said Gibbs. "They went to the 1-3-1, which gave us some problems, they were tipping a lot of passes, but there is opportunity for shooters there. Guys like Ethan, Jahenns and Josh Jones stepped up and made shots; I think that was the difference in the second half."

The win gives the Bluejays a very impressive 10-1 record at the end of their non-conference schedule. Head coach, Greg McDermott had an interesting way of summing up his thoughts about his team's early-season performance.

"It is almost as good as it possibly could be," said McDermott, obviously referencing his team's lone hiccup, a road loss to St. Joe's.

The Bluejays will break for the holidays, until Sunday night, when they will start their first of three days of preparation leading up to their first conference game, when Kyle Weems and the Missouri State Bears visit Omaha, on Wednesday. Before the press conference ended, Coach McDermott gave the crowd a glowing review.

"When you take a job, in the back of your mind, you envision something like what happened tonight. You envision no empty seats and four-deep in the lobby trying to get in. That's what we want this to be about; we want this to be a tough ticket to get, and we are going to try to play an exciting brand of basketball," said McDermott.

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