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December 5, 2010

Huskers shoot down Bluejays in 59-54 victory

It was sloppy, inconsistent and at times downright ugly. In the Nebraska-Creighton rivalry, though, that's the way it usually seems to be.

With both teams combining to shoot 15-of-64 from 3-point range and neither establishing any sort of sustained offensive consistency, it was Nebraska that made the most plays down the stretch to top its instate rival 59-54 on Sunday at the Devaney Center.

After shooting just 3-of-18 from beyond the arc in the first half, the Huskers (6-2 overall) came out firing to start the second and opened with a 22-8 run to turn an eight-point halftime deficit into a 43-37 lead with the help of six 3-pointers.

Nebraska never trailed from that point on, though the Bluejays (4-4) did pull within just one point in the final minute. The Huskers have now won three straight over Creighton, marking their longest winning streak in the series since 1998.

"There's no question (the turning point) was us starting to make shots, because they were definitely going to make us shoot them," head coach Doc Sadler said. "At least we weren't showing the tentativeness that we had shown in the past of jumping up and shooting it. No question about it, making those 3s was probably good for our spirit. It got the crowd into the game. I can't imagine sitting there as a crowd watching that first half. That's hard to get into."

Creighton looked to be on its way to taking the game in the last minute when center Kenny Lawson Jr. hit a jump hook to cut it to 55-54 with 1:08 to play, but the Bluejays couldn't get the stop they needed and sent NU senior guard Lance Jeter to the line with 26.3 remaining.

Jeter hit both free throws to make it 57-54, giving Creighton one last possession to tie the game. Lawson had an open look at the top of the key that was off target, but he pulled down his own rebound and kicked the ball out to guard Antoine Young for one last shot.

Young couldn't get his feet set and put up a fade away 3 that fell short, and Jeter hauled in the rebound. Surprisingly, the Bluejays didn't foul Jeter, and he passed the ball up court to senior guard Drake Beranek for a breakaway lay-up with .06 on the clock to seal the win.

"It feels good," junior guard Brandon Richardson said. "We've got our bragging rights, so we're going to carry that through next year until the next time we play."

Offense was definitely hard to come by for both teams in the first half, as even though Creighton took a 29-21 lead into halftime there was little offensive rhythm on either side of the floor.

While the Bluejays made just one of their first 10 shots of the game, they were able to get some momentum going behind tough and physical play on the boards. Behind eight offensive rebounds in the first half, CU put together a 19-5 run to jump out to a 27-16 lead with 3:20 to go in the half.

Nebraska was able to chip away and cut the deficit to eight points, but it definitely didn't help itself with its perimeter shooting. The Huskers shot 18 3-pointers in the first half, making just three, while also turning the ball over seven times.

Richardson, who scored eight of his game-high 18 points in the opening half, was the only somewhat consistent scoring threat for NU.

"Neither teams' offense was real aggressive (in the first half), and I don't know why that was," Sadler said. "One reason probably was one team shot 18 3s and the other team shot 15 3s. Well if you're shooting all 3-point shots, then obviously you're going to be playing on the perimeter all the time, you're not going to get to the free throw line and you're not going to get a chance to get your offense going. I think that had a lot to do with it."

When all was said and done, Nebraska shot a season-high 31 3-pointers, making nine, while Creighton shot just 6-of-33 from beyond the arc. The 31 3-point attempts were the Huskers' most in a game since 2007 and the fourth-most under Sadler.

Though they helped NU get a victory Sunday, Sadler said his team wouldn't be able win too many more games shooting that much from the perimeter. His players agreed.

"We've got to throw the ball to the post," Richardson said. "The game is played inside-out, and it's much easier if we can throw the ball down there. You can't really win a lot of games shooting 30-plus 3-pointers, but it just so happened that we did tonight. I'm sure we'll get it corrected going into next game, but it was just one of those days where we just had to because they were open."

Jeter finished 12 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Huskers, who have now won four straight games since losing their first two games of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off last month. Freshman forward Doug McDermott was the only Creighton player to score in double figures with 10 points, as the Bluejays have now dropped three in a row.

Nebraska returns to action on Wednesday for another home game against Alcorn State.

"We're just trying to take every game step by step and win every game, because these are big games," Jeter said. "You never want to lose at home, because it can hurt you, and that's what we're going to do, just keep protecting our home and keep getting better each day."

Around the rim

***Sophomore forward Christian Standhardinger was held out of the lineup for the second straight game for academic reasons.

"As soon as he gets caught up (academically) he'll be back out here," Sadler said.

***Nebraska's eight turnovers in the win were a season-low, as it hadn't committed less than 12 in any of its first seven games.

***With six assists and zero turnovers, Jeter continued his impressive run of ball security in recent weeks. Over the past three games, Jeter has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 16-to-1.

***Though he only finished with six points, junior guard Caleb Walker hauled in a career-high 10 rebounds on Sunday, and he was also 2-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc.



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