No. 22 Creighton women’s basketball lost its first game of the season Thursday night, falling 65-53 at home to Green Bay.
The Phoenix went on a 17-0 run early in the first quarter and maintained their advantage from there. Creighton made numerous pushes, with its strongest coming in the fourth quarter, but the visitors held on for the upset.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Green Bay Comes out Prepared and Executes on Both Ends
On its opening possession, Creighton looked to feed a cutting Morgan Maly, who was coming off a 30-point performance in the team’s last game.
She was open, but the pass was deflected at the perimeter for a turnover.
While that particular play didn’t end up producing anything for Green Bay — Lauren Jensen earned a steal of her own for a fast-break layup seconds later — it was the start of a strong defensive night for the Phoenix.
Maly missed the only three shots she took in the opening half as the opponents denied her touches possession after possession. The Bluejay offense as a whole struggled to get in a rhythm all game, shooting 34.6% and committing a number of ugly turnovers.
On the other end of the floor, it was a similar story. Creighton didn’t necessarily play poor defense for most of the night, putting together strong possessions consistently and forcing 15 turnovers. However, Green Bay found open looks regardless through patience and ball movement, shooting 54.5% from the field and hitting six of its 12 3-point attempts.
Following a game in which he saw his team outplayed, Creighton head coach Jim Flanery pointed to the preparation as the difference-maker.
“They’re a tough team to prepare for, and I’m not sure we did a great job,” Flanery said. “And I’m talking about the staff getting our kids ready, because they really had us turning our heads in the first quarter and we were behind most of their action, it seemed like … We’re not that talented to where we can’t be really good in preparation.”
While the loss was certainly disappointing, it also helps put things in perspective for the future, Flanery said. His postgame message to the team reflected that.
“it’s November, we have to get better,” Flanery said. “If this forces us to prepare a little bit better, then this was a good night.”
Depth, Shooting Issues Show
Creighton hung around largely thanks to two players.
Emma Ronsiek was by far the most effective Bluejay in the opening half, scoring 11 of the team’s 22 points. Lauren Jensen added five on 2-for-7 shooting, but she truly shined after the break. The guard nearly pulled Creighton all the way back by herself, scoring seven points in the third quarter and adding another seven early in the fourth to lead a 12-0 run.
That cut the lead to four points before Green Bay responded to put the game away. While Jensen and Ronsiek were good, their efforts alone weren’t strong enough. The pair combined to score 36 points, shooting 12-for-28 from the field and going 10-for-13 from the free-throw line. The rest of the team put up 17 points while shooting 6-for-25 and missing three of the four free throws they took.
The Bluejays were expected to lean on their starters, and their big three of Maly, Jensen and Ronsiek in particular. That will likely be enough for Creighton to win a good number of games. But when one of the team’s stars is off, it’ll be worth watching who else is able to step up as the season goes on.
Along with that, the team has struggled shooting the ball early this year. Creighton made 36.1% of its 3s last season, but that mark has dropped to 27.8% now through three games. Of course, with that small of a sample size and the great amount of experience on the team, it’s no reason to panic yet. But Flanery acknowledges it as something he’s taken note of.
One improvement he wanted to see was where players were receiving passes.
“I don’t know how many times we catch it four feet outside the line when we can catch it on the 3,” he said. “Those are things that we need to get better at. We’re an unselfish team but I think sometimes you’ve got to be willing to catch and shoot on one pass if you’re open and I’m not sure we’re there yet.”
Next up at Nebraska
Next game for Creighton offers a big opportunity to bounce back.
The Bluejays will play in-state rival Nebraska on the road, looking to win the matchup for a second year in a row after last season’s blowout.
The Huskers are 3-0 with a lighter schedule, also shooting poorly from beyond the arc (27.9%) despite a significant volume of shots from range. They may be without key players as well, as Maddie Krull and Annika Stewart have missed games recently and Jaz Shelley suffered a lower leg injury in the team’s most recent contest.
Regardless, Creighton is ready for the challenge. Immediately after the conclusion of Thursday night’s game, Flanery gave a message encouraging fans in attendance to head to Pinnacle Bank Arena on Sunday.
“There’ll be a lot of energy in the building,” Flanery said. “And we kind of had a way with them last last year, so I know they’ll be ready to go. And they’ll take some things from watching tonight’s game.”