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Morning After: #25 Creighton Demolishes Overmatched USC Upstate Team on Record-Setting Night, 116-62

Morning After: #25 Creighton Demolishes Overmatched USC Upstate Team on Record-Setting Night, 116-62

[Box Score]

Bluejay Beat Podcast:

Recap & Analysis:

In the Pregame Primer, we talked about USC Upstate’s defensive struggles this year, and commented that this would likely be the worst defensive team the Bluejays would see all season. That certainly turned out to be the case, because while Creighton’s good, NO ONE is this good.

The Bluejays made their first seven shots and nine of their first 10, burying USC Upstate early and often with a relentless attack. Leading 7-6, they ripped off a 17-2 run to build a 24-8 after just seven minutes of action. Indicative of how the night would go, everyone got involved as all five players on the court contributed buckets in the surge — Khyri Thomas on a fastbreak dunk, Marcus Foster, Mitch Ballock and Ty-Shon Alexander on three-pointers, and Toby Hegner on a jumper.

That kind of unselfish play has been a staple all year. “We’re a better passing team than a year ago,” Coach Greg McDermott said in his postgame radio show. “Last year we kept the ball in Maurice Watson’s hands on purpose because he was so good. When he got hurt, it forced Khryi and Marcus into decision-making roles, and that’s carried over into this year. We’re throwing it ahead to them in transition way more than we did a year ago, and they’re making better plays. When you’ve got guys as talented as Marcus and Tazz willing to make the extra pass, it’s pretty easy for me to get everybody else to buy into that.”

Upstate got a three from Mike Cunningham to stop the run for all of eight seconds, “cutting” the lead to 26-13, before another flurry of points by the Jays. A three from Foster immediately followed, as did layups from Ballock and Hegner, as CU scored 11 unanswered in a 19-2 run that gave them a 45-15 lead.

If we’re being honest, the entire game was a series of huge Bluejay runs, one after another, interrupted briefly by intermittent baskets by Upstate. The bludgeoning continued all night, as the Bluejays ran USC Upstate out of the gym with quick shots in transition — their average possession length in the first half was 12 seconds — against a defense that offered little to no resistance. CU outscored Upstate 20-0 on fastbreak points in the first half alone.

They led 58-24 at the break, the second-biggest halftime lead in CenturyLink Center history. This is the kind of night it was: Upstate opened the second half with red-hot shooting of their own by making eight of their first 11 shots, but not only failed to cut into Creighton’s lead, they saw it extended as CU shot even better and outscored them by three. As part of that stretch, the Jays hit three 3-pointers from virtually the same spot in the left corner over a span of 52 seconds, and built a 73-34 lead four minutes into the half. They hit the free pizza threshold of 75 points at the 14:56 mark, at which point they’d made a ridiculous 70% of their shots (28-40) with 20 assists from nine different players.

As they continued doing pretty much whatever they wanted offensively, Ty-Shon Alexander provided the highlight of the night — and the #1 dunk of the non-conference schedule — on this play. The television broadcast and the replay don’t do it justice; in person, the height that Alexander leaped to both catch the pass and throw down the dunk was jaw-dropping. The audible gasps followed by the loudest roar of the night illustrate that point; it left Steve Physioc and Nick Bahe silent for a moment to appreciate what they’d seen.

While the Jays dispatched with the visiting Upstate squad rather easily, that was okay with McDermott and his staff given what was transpiring elsewhere around the country Wednesday night as Wofford beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill and Maryland Eastern Shore nearly upset Iowa State in Ames.

“That’s why I don’t sleep this time of year,” McDermott said. “We’ve been lucky. We almost lost to a one-win Oral Roberts team in this last home game before Christmas a year ago. It’s so hard to focus with finals and the excitement of going home to see your family when you haven’t seen them since August. That’s why I’m so proud of the team tonight. Their focus was really good, they were really unselfish, they played the right way.”

Key Stats:

Creighton had 32 assists, setting a new single-game record and besting the 31 they’d done twice before (in a January, 1990 win at Siena, and a 1978 loss at DePaul).

Their 19 three-pointers were third-most in program history — and the Jays nearly out-scored USC Upstate on three-pointers alone, with Upstate scoring 62 total points and CU getting 57 just on three’s.

Their 116 points were also the third-most in program history, the most points scored by any team in CenturyLink Center history, and the most points scored by Creighton at any site since 1964 (when they hung 124 points on Miami in a 30-point road win).

The 54-point margin of victory was second-most in arena history, trailing only last December’s 56-point pasting of Longwood, which was also the game where Creighton set the previous arena record for most points with 113.

Creighton has now scored 100 or more points five times this season, including four of eight home games; that’s the most since CU did it five times in 1971-72. They averaged 1.547 points per possession, scoring on 48-of-75 possessions.

Creighton’s bench outscored their starters 59-57, and nearly outscored USC Upstate’s entire team.

Standout Performance:

The domination was widespread in this one. 12 Creighton players had multiple field goals (and 10 players made a three-pointer). Six players scored in double figures, including Tyler Clement for the first time in his career with 10 points. Jordan Scurry had a career high seven points on 3-3 shooting.

Marcus Foster scored more points (16) than minutes played (15), and logged the fewest minutes in any game as a Bluejay. It makes sense then that his most memorable moment of the night came well after he’d headed to the bench:

And Kaleb Joseph had eight assists, including seven in 12 second-half minutes, his most since he had 10 against Villanova exactly three years to the date while he was starting for Syracuse.

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