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Inside the Numbers: Creighton Versus Nebraska

by Dec 2, 2023Creighton Mens Basketball, Nebraska Mens Basketball

Nebraska Versus Creighton
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

The anticipation for the annual Creighton versus Nebraska men’s basketball game has been ratcheted up a notch this season. 

Nebraska is 7-0 for just the fifth time in school history. A win Sunday over their in-state rival Creighton would give the Huskers (7-0) their best start since 1977-78.  

Should Creighton win, the Jays would improve to 7-1 or better after eight games for the fifth time in 14 seasons under Greg McDermott.

Last year, Nebraska upset No. 7 Creighton 63-53 in Omaha. The Husker win was the first in 13 regular season games over the Bluejays’, a streak that dated back to 1995.  

Creighton would improve to 4-1 inside Pinnacle Bank Arena. No other nonconference team owns more than one win in the 10-year history of the venue.

Matchup History

Nebraska and Creighton are meeting for the 57th time in series history. 

Creighton has won 19 of the past 24 regular-season match-ups against the Huskers. The Bluejays lead the all-time series (including postseason) 29-27. The Bluejays have won nine of the last 11 meetings, with eight of those wins by double-figures.

Nebraska is looking for consecutive wins in the series for the first time since winning seven straight from 1990-1997. 

Creighton won four of the first seven meetings in the history of the series before a 45-year break where the in-state rivals did not play each other. The series has been played at least once each season since 1977 and is Creighton’s longest-running nonconference series.

Greg McDermott is 16-5 all-time against Nebraska (10-3 as Creighton head coach) and 3-2 against Fred Hoiberg. McDermott is the only Creighton men’s basketball coach to win seven straight games over the Cornhuskers (2011-17), and his 10 overall victories are tied with Dana Altman (who was 10-7 against Nebraska) among Bluejay men’s basketball head coaches all-time.

Creighton has led at halftime in 18 of the past 24 regular-season meetings, with eight double-digit halftime leads in that span. Four of the six times that Creighton trailed at half against Nebraska, the Bluejays’ had a comeback win. Nebraska has led at halftime and beaten Creighton in the regular season just twice since Jan. 8, 1997, with those coming in December of 2018 and Dec. 2, 2022.

Nebraska has scored more than 30 first-half points in just four of the last 20 regular-season meetings against Creighton.

More Numbers

Creighton won on Thursday at Oklahoma State (79-65). Creighton hasn’t won consecutive nonconference road games in four days in 25 seasons. The last time was in 1999 — Dec. 1 (Georgia State) and Dec. 4 (Baylor). 

Sunday’s game features two teams that are among the nation’s best in not fouling. Creighton leads the nation at 9.1 fouls per game, while Nebraska is second in the Big Ten and seventh nationally at 13.1 fouls per game as of Dec. 1.

In-state Flavor

A total of nine Nebraska natives are currently on the roster of the two teams. 

Creighton has five in-state players: Baylor Scheierman (Aurora), Jasen Green (Millard North), Joshua Townley-Thomas (Omaha Creighton Prep), Josiah Dotzler (Bellevue West) and Isaac Traudt (Grand Island). 

The Huskers have four players who played their high school basketball in Nebraska: Josiah Allick (Lincoln North Star), Henry Burt (Elkhorn South), Sam Hoiberg (Lincoln Pius X) and Cale Jacobsen (Ashland-Greenwood). 

Scouting Creighton

Creighton (6-1) is ranked No. 15 in the Associated Press poll and No. 14 in the USA Today Coaches poll.

The Jays’ three returning starters have had a hot start to the season. Senior center Ryan Kalkbrenner (15.4 points per game, 58.7% from the field), senior forward Baylor Scheierman (18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game) and junior guard Trey Alexander (16.4 points, 6.6 rrebounds and 4.4 assists per game) are leading the way. 

Senior transfer Steven Ashworth (9.3 points and 3.7 assists per game, 47.1% from 3), the USBWA District VII Player of the Year last year at Utah State, had his best game as a Bluejay Thursday against Oklahoma State where he scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting including 4-of-5 from behind the arc. His five assists were a season-high as well. 

The Bluejays’ offense is shooting 50% from the floor and 40% from 3-point range. Creighton is averaging 12 3-pointers per contest and scoring 83.3 points per game. The Jays have also out-rebounded their opponents by 10.7 per contest.

Creighton’s defense has held teams to 63.9 points per game and allowed opponents to make just 35 3-pointers this season.

Scouting Nebraska

Nebraska has won each of its seven contests by double figures.

Nebraska has four players averaging double figures. Juwan Gary missed the first three games but has returned to average a team-high 16.0 points per game. Bradley transfer Rienk Mast (14.7 points and 10.1 rebounds), Charlotte transfer Brice Williams (14.6 points per game) and Keisei Tominaga (14.6 points per game) have all gotten off to great starts as well.

The Huskers average 81.6 points per game and shoot 45.7% from the field, 34.5% from 3-point range and 74.0% from the free-throw line. Nebraska allows just 61.9 points per contest, holding opponents to 36.1% shooting overall and 26.2% from 3-point range.

Nebraska’s assist-to-turnover ratio (1.71) this season is second in the Big Ten and in the top 20 nationally as of Dec. 1. The Huskers’ best assist-to-turnover ratio in the last decade is 1.32, set in the 2018-19 season. That season, Nebraska had 9.96 turnovers per game, the lowest average since assists were tracked starting in 1978-79.

Coaches’ Connections

Greg McDermott was head coach at Iowa State from 2006-10 before leaving to take the job at Creighton. His replacement in Ames was Fred Hoiberg,

Hoiberg left Iowa State to take the head coaching job with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls in 2015. With the Bulls, he coached Greg’s son Doug McDermott, who averaged 9.7 points and 2.6 rebounds per game under Hoiberg.

Both Hoiberg and Doug McDermott attended Ames High School and led the school to a state title.

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