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Bluejay Rewind: Creighton vs Iowa, 11/25/98

Ed. Note: This is the first in a new summer series that will look back at games from years past, including highlight packages. Not all of these games are classics in the traditional sense, but all of them feature terrific performances from Bluejay greats, and we think you’ll enjoy watching them as much as we did.

In the early years of the Dana Altman Era, before Creighton was a big enough name for BCS schools to shy away from, they could — and did — play many big-time opponents in home-and-home series. In the 1998-99 season alone, they played three such games: home dates with Baylor and Oklahoma State, and a road game against Iowa. Baylor went a horrid 6-24 that year, but the other two schools won games in the NCAA Tournament that year — and both of them lost to the Jays in the non-conference.

The win over Iowa is the one featured today not because of significance or it’s classic nature, but simply because it was the only one of the three to be televised. In fact, it was one of just two Bluejay games to be televised the entire season! Rodney Buford, a senior on that 1998-99 team, played on national TV just one time in the regular season during his entire CU career, a road game in February of 1999 at Illinois State that marked the Bluejays’ first ESPN appearance in eight years. If you’re looking for a reason of why footage of Rodzilla doing his thing is so scarce, that’s the biggest — his first three seasons were played only for the fans in attendance, not in front of television cameras.

Thanksgiving weekend in 1998, the Jays’ game against Iowa was televised on the Hawkeyes’ statewide syndication network, and that’s where the footage in this highlight reel comes from. Creighton’s 75-73 win featured a number of terrific individual performances, including 24 points (and one ridiculous open court dunk) from Buford and 11 points, 4 assists and 5 steals from Ankeny native Ryan Sears. The “Ankeny Bulldog” got the better of his high-school nemesis, Dean Oliver, forcing his fellow Iowa native into seven turnovers.

It’s a game best remembered for Buford taking over in the second half, though. The senior made five straight shots and had 13 points as the Bluejays outscored Iowa 34-15 in the first 10 minutes of the half, turning a 37-30 halftime deficit into a 64-52 lead. The Jays hit 12 of 15 shots from the field (80 percent) over that stretch, including 6 of 7 three-point attempts (two each by Buford and Sears, and one from both Nerijus Karlikanovas and Corie Brandon).

It was a sloppy contest, with the teams combining for 52 fouls and 47 turnovers. And when the shot clocks malfunctioned a few minutes into the game, forcing the rest of the game to be played without a working clock, it robbed the game of any semblance of flow. It did lead to a highly amusing (and admittedly ingenius) situation where an Iowa official at the scorer’s table held up a series of 8.5″x11″ sheets of paper with numbers written on them to signify the shot clock — starting with 35, and switching them out every five seconds.

The 75-73 win was a feather in the cap of the up-and-coming Bluejays, who would go on to win the MVC Tournament and then defeat Louisville in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, Iowa would go on to win 20 games and advance to the Sweet 16 in Tom Davis’ final season on the bench. The rematch in Omaha the following year would feature a new coach on the Iowa bench — Altman nemesis Steve Alford — but a similar result.

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