Bluejay Rewind: Jays vs Bradley (03/01/2008)
Creighton has had eight players score 40 or more points in a game, and it’s a list that includes many of the biggest names in program history. Bob Portman. Eddie Cole. Tim Powers. Benoit Benjamin. Rodney Buford. Chad Gallagher. Doug McDermott. Cavel Witter.
The other seven are all members of Creighton’s 39-member 1,000 point club; Witter scored 809 in a wildly inconsistent three-year career that saw him score in double figures 37 times and score two or fewer points 19 times. Case in point: exactly two weeks prior to this game, Witter was held scoreless in the first meeting against Bradley. His 42-point game in the rematch, however, ranks as one of the greatest offensive performances in Creighton history, came in one of the most unforgettable games in school history, and cemented his status in Bluejay lore forever.
Creighton entered the final game of the 2007-08 regular season with a lot at stake. Their 11 straight seasons with at least 10 Missouri Valley wins and their streak of nine consecutive 20-win seasons were both on the line. The resulting 111-110, double-overtime win saw Witter score the Bluejays’ final five points in the first overtime and their final 10 in the second overtime, rallying his team from down five points each time.
The Jays were a very good team at home that year, going 14-2 at Qwest Center entering the finale. Meanwhile, Bradley had won nine of their last 12 entering the game, but hadn’t beaten the Bluejays in Omaha since 1998. That last fact was reinforced right before tipoff, in huge letters as part of a swagger-filled hype video that also featured the Under Armor guy yelling “We must protect this house!” over and over again. It was an electric atmosphere…and then the Braves came out on fire and socked the Bluejays in the mouth. They scored the game’s first nine points, forced four Bluejay turnovers in the first five minutes, and blasted out to a 12-point lead. And they did it with gusto; the early action featured Bradley’s Theron Wilson finishing a transition play with a thunderous dunk, and Daniel Ruffin hitting multiple three-pointers while being booed every time he touched the ball.
With 9:27 to go in the half, Bradley led 27-15. Over the next six minutes, Creighton used a 19-5 run to take the lead, and roared into the locker room ahead 41-34 after Nick Bahe nailed a buzzer-beating three. In the second half, they pushed the lead out to 17 when Bradley coach Jim Les was called for a technical foul protesting a blocking foul on the Braves’ Rashad Austin; Cavel Witter and Chad Millard combined to make all four free throws, and following a dunk and a nifty hook shot from Kenny Lawson on the next two possessions, the Jays were officially running the Braves out of the building.
Not so fast.
Bradley’s Jeremy Crouch scored the next nine points, P’Allen Stinnett lost his cool and was T’d up for running his mouth, and the Braves seized momentum. They went on a 16-2 run that all but erased Creighton’s lead, and though they never took the lead, they tied it twice in the game’s final minute. On the final play of regulation, Dane Watts drew a charge on Theron Wilson’s would-be game winner, and the game went overtime.
In the first extra period, Bradley held a 95-90 lead with 1:32 to go, but Witter answered with a three-point play and a layup off of a Braves turnover to tie it, then played solid on-ball defense against Ruffin to force a contested shot at the buzzer. It missed long, and the game went to a second overtime.
Once again, the Braves took lead early — this time by six, 104-98, on the strength of three-pointers from Crouch and Theron Wilson — and once again the Bluejays came back. Booker Woodfox started the comeback with a three, and then Witter took over.
First he nailed a three with 1:47 to play to cut the deficit to two. Then, following a miss by Ruffin, he drove for a layup to tie the game at 106 with 47 seconds left. Ruffin answered with a layup of his own, and Witter answered THAT with another three-pointer to put CU up 109-108. A Braves turnover and two free throws by Witter made it 111-108 with 25 seconds to go, and that’s when things got REALLY crazy (though you’d be forgiven for calling it “Creighton repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot and getting away with it.”)
Ruffin drove the length of the court and put up a shot from point-blank range that was swatted away by Watts, and in the fight for the rebound, Pierce Hibma fouled Ruffin. He made one of two free throws to make it 111-109, but no one boxed Ruffin out, so he rebounded his own miss and called timeout. On the ensuing inbounds play, Witter fouled Theron Wilson as he tried to cut off the baseline — fouling out of the game in the process. Wilson also could only make one of two free throws, and this time the Jays secured the board. Bahe went to the line with 11 seconds left and the Jays clinging to a 111-110 lead…and missed both free throws.
Ruffin grabbed the board and raced down court, putting up a shot at the rim with four seconds left that missed, and Pierce Hibma wrestled the loose ball away from two Bradley players. In the process, he was called for — get this — traveling (!) and the Braves got the ball back with yet another chance to win. Surprisingly, the inbounds pass (and thus the potential game-winner) went not to Ruffin or Crouch, but to Sam Singh, the Braves center, who put up a tough jump-hook over Watts that was offline.
Witter’s 42 were more than matched by Bradley’s Daniel Ruffin, who scored 30, and Jeremy Crouch, who added 29, in an offensive battle the likes of which have rarely been seen. The 221 combined points made it the highest-scoring game in Creighton history, and it was the first (and to date, only) time both Creighton and their opponent scored 110 or more points in the same game.
“After the dust settles, this will be one we’ll remember,” Altman told the media afterward. “If that jump hook would have went in, it would have been a heartbreaker. Fortunately for us, it didn’t.”
The teams would meet in St. Louis in the MVC Quarterfinals six days later, with the Jays again winning, 74-70. Witter once again led them in scoring, but with a more pedestrian 15 points on 5-11 shooting. Two weeks later, he was the hero in another crazy game, making the game-winning three in an NIT win over Rhode Island.
Enjoy all the highlights from this wild game, which wasn’t televised and hasn’t been seen since that night. The footage is from a DVD of the raw arena feed, and includes audio from Bluejay Radio, with T. Scott Marr and Jimmy Motz on the call.
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