Creighton 71, Tulsa 54
This may sound crazy, but I was excited there were wintery conditions and the threat of a blizzard on Wednesday night. It was even better that there was a Creighton game on the schedule. The adventure of the weather usually makes the game seem even better.
Don’t get me wrong, I get pretty pumped up for every Creighton game. But there is something about being able to show how committed you are to something when you can brave the elements to be one of the special limited number of people in attendance and to create memories you don’t forget.
Since I work somewhat close to the CenturyLink Center I came to the arena especially early just so I could watch the teams warm up a little more. With my increased hours in my job and family events going all the time this season, I haven’t spent a lot of time watching the team outside of the actual games. My family and I get there pretty early before gametime, but it is the sprint to get them food and make sure that they are entertained and settled in. The next thing I know, it is tipoff. Well, not this time.
Tonight I was by myself. My wife and kids stayed home to watch on TV. While my knuckles would say otherwise later, it was a fun night and a lot of things happen that don’t usually happen. First, I was able to be in the CLink Arena and be one of maybe 40 fans that were there about 75 minutes early until about 10 minutes before gametime. There appeared to be no one there. The student section was completely empty (not really a surprise there), no Dance Team and no Pep Band. Secondly, the National Anthem was sung by four guys into a microphone that wasn’t working, but I could still hear it. Although the Blue Crew was there, it appeared to be ugly sweater night and Billy Bluejay was wearing a Santa outfit that I have never seen before. The final significant thing in the atmosphere for the night was partway into the first half. To thank all the fans that were in attendance and for braving the weather, the people in the upper bowl were invited to come down and find an empty seat in the lower bowl.
Everyone’s routine was likely different on Wednesday night and although the Bluejays were well aware of what was going on outside with the weather, it wouldn’t surprise me if all of these things messed up their own routine while on the court. In something Creighton fans haven’t seen all season, the Bluejays uncharacteristically turned the ball over. Tulsa came to play and they forced Creighton into seven turnovers in under six minutes of play. Lucky for them, the Hurricane had troubles scoring and Creighton played hardnosed defense holding them to 37.5% shooting for the game.
Despite the turnovers, the Bluejays quietly went on a 16-1 run over the next seven minutes to triple up Tulsa 24-8. Gregory Echenique had a big half, almost recording a double-double in the first 20 minutes (12 points, 8 rebounds) as the Jays went to him early and often. By halftime, the Bluejays were up 18 points, 38-20. The other crazy stat was that Doug McDermott only had 4 points and had airballed it three times.
To start the second half, Tulsa forced Creighton into three quick turnovers to cut the lead down to 11 and it looked like things were going to be a repeat of the first half. Fortunately, Tulsa had just as many problems holding onto the ball for the game, committing 25 turnovers that turned into 32 big points for the Bluejays. Taking advantage of those turnovers was Avery Dingman. Dingman, after getting 7 points and 2 steals in the first half, went on to score the other 14 of his game high 21 points and hit his four triples in transition off a turnover. What a great night by Dingman to have a breakout game similar to what he did in the exhibition game against Mary. While head coach Greg McDermott was looking on how to replace the minutes left by Josh Jones absence, it appears those minutes can start going Dingman’s way.
Wednesday night was definitely not the prettiest game by the Bluejays, but that is okay. What was great was being able to be there for it and to see Creighton get their 11th win before Christmas for the first time in school history. I prayed for my safe arrival home on the snowpacked roads, but I can say I was there. Someday I can look back at this when we reminisce about the amazing season Creighton basketball had in 2012-13. Yeah, people may go to a lot of Creighton games in their lifetime, but how many remember special games like these that are not in the normal routine? This one was special in ways I will never forget. Enjoy this, savor this. I definitely will.
Let’s get ready for conference season. You never know, it could be the last one in the MVC. So make it memorable.