OMAHA, Neb — Billed as a battle of offensive juggernauts, the event lived up to the hype as the Creighton men’s basketball team gave No. 1 Gonzaga all the Bulldogs could handle in a 103-92 loss on Saturday, Dec. 1.
The loss dropped the Bluejays to 6-2 on the season, ending Creighton’s four-game winning streak. Gonzaga, meanwhile, moved to 8-0 overall. It was the third time in program history that Creighton has hosted the No. 1 team, and first time since Villanova on Dec. 31, 2016.
Both teams entered the game averaging over 90 points per game and the start did not disappoint as Ty-Shon Alexander drained a three-ball on the opening possession, then Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura answered with a trey for the Bulldogs. Creighton went out to hit its first four shots as the Bluejays jumped out to an early 13-7 lead (16:49). The top-ranked Bulldogs stormed back to tie the game at 13-13 (15:37), but the Bluejays refused to surrender the lead. Once more Alexander got Creighton going with a deep three-pointer as the Bluejays went on a 15-6 run to build a 28-19 lead (11:40). Five different Creighton players contributed during the run, led by six points from Alexander.
Creighton pushed their advantage to double-digits moments later (34-23), courtesy of another bucket by Alexander to force Gonzaga head coach Mark Few to use a timeout. The Bulldogs responded with a 6-0 run and pulled within four at 35-31 (5:13), but the Bluejays closed the half strong to take a 48-41 lead into the locker room at the half.
Gonzaga went to a player that delivered big the Bulldogs last season in Spokane against Creighton, Zach Norvell Jr., on the opening possession of the second half. The plan worked as Norvell Jr. converted a conventional three-point play. Damien Jefferson answered with a trey for the Bluejays, but Norvell Jr. found his stroke with another trifecta. Gonzaga went on to get within a point at 53-52 (17:54), yet Creighton answered as Martin Krampelj got to the basket with a layup and eventually pushed back out to a 63-56 edge with 15:28 left in the game.
Once more Gonzaga answered the challenge, taking its first lead since the opening moments of the game with 13:29 left in the second half at 66-65. The Bluejays stayed in the fight, reclaiming the lead on a three-pointer from Marcus Zegarowski as the two squads went back and forth over the next three minutes.
The turning point in the game came with Creighton leading 73-72 (11:32) as the Bulldogs took control with 12 straight points to claim an 84-73 edge with 8:15 remaining.
The Bluejays final push drew Creighton within five at 90-85 with 2:13 left, but Gonzaga converted its free throws down the stretch. The Zags closed the 22-of-27 (81.5%) from the charity stripe.
Alexander led Creighton with 27 points, while Jefferson and Krampelj rounded out the Bluejays in double figures with 15 and 10 points respectively. Gonzaga got a game-high 28 points, tying a career-high, including 23 points in the second half, from Norvell Jr.. Three other Bulldogs topped double-digits as Brandon Clarke had 27 points and 10 rebounds, Hachimura finished with 22 points and Josh Perkins delivered 13 points and tied an arena record with 13 assists.
The Bluejays return to the court on Saturday, Dec. 8 as Creighton battles Nebraska at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln with a tip set for 5:00 pm.