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Bluejay Rewind: Jays vs Maryland, 3/13/1999

Ed. Note: This is the part of our 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.

Creighton’s reward for winning their first-round NCAA Tournament game against Louisville? A matchup with the fifth-ranked team in America, the Maryland Terrapins, a team stocked with future NBA talent like Steve Francis, Juan Dixon, Terence Morris, Lonny Baxter and Laron Profit. That’s right — of the top six players on Maryland’s roster in this game, five of them went on to play in the NBA.

The conventional memory about this game is that it was an uncompetitive, blowout loss to a vastly superior team. I’d never gone back and watched it again since the day of the game, believing that to be the case, so I was surprised to find that the conventional memory wasn’t entirely true. Dana Altman’s inspired defensive strategy for containing Steve Francis — a box-and-one using Ben Walker as the stopper — worked brilliantly, forcing the superstar guard into seven turnovers and leaving him dizzy and confused, able to dish out only two assists. Walker had an amazing game offensively, too, going 6-7 from the floor and 3-4 from three-point range, earning praise from the CBS crew of Gus Johnson and Dan Bonner for his tenacity defensively and his efficiency offensively.

A close game early was broken open with a 16-5 Maryland run to close the first half, a hole that would have been deeper if not for a Rodney Buford three at the buzzer. As the second half commenced, the Terps stretched their lead out to 21, but the game was far from over. Led by Walker, the Jays scrapped, clawed and fought, and finally went on an 11-2 run to slice the lead down to 10 with just over five minutes left. Turnovers on Maryland’s next two possessions gave Creighton a chance to cut in the lead even further, but Buford, Ryan Sears and Corie Brandon all missed good looks at three-pointers, stopping their momentum and giving the Terps a chance to catch their breath before closing out the win.

It’s the first Creighton loss we’ve featured in Bluejay Rewind, but we thought it worthy of selection because it includes Rodney Buford breaking the Creighton all-time scoring record held (at the time) by Bob Harstad, on a nifty jumper to open the second half scoring. And it features Buford’s final basket in a Creighton uniform, which in and of itself wouldn’t be a particularly noteworthy occasion…except it happened to be a thunderous dunk where he absolutely posterizes Maryland’s Terence Morris as an incredulous Gus Johnson goes nuts in the broadcast booth.

This highlight package is worth it just for that one dunk alone, trust me.

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