KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Freshman Mitch Ballockscored 22 points and Creighton men’s basketball team knocked off a top-25 team for the second straight game as thousands of Bluejay faithful turned Sprint Center into a virtual home game in a 100-89 win over No. 23 UCLA on Monday night at the 2017 Hall of Fame Classic.
The win improves Creighton to 11-0 all-time in the event, and a date in the 9 pm Central title game on Tuesday against the Baylor/Wisconsin winner.
Creighton (4-0) used an 16-0 run midway through the first half to go up 24-13 and force a pair of UCLA timeouts. The Jays made 6-of-7 shots in the spurt, including a pair of buckets from Marcus Foster and Ty-Shon Alexander.
UCLA (3-1) answered with 10-0 run to get within one at 29-28 and eventually take the lead, but Ballock ended the half on a personal 7-0 run to give Creighton a 43-38 lead at the break. Ballock and Khyri Thomas led CU with nine points each at the break.
Creighton scored first seven points of the second half to quickly push the lead back to double-figures and never trailed in the second half.
The teams traded offensive haymakers through much of the second half, but UCLA never got any closer than the 86-81 differential with 5:39 to play.
A Thomas three-pointer with 1:40 to play proved to be one final Bluejay dagger, putting CU in front 97-87. The Bruins would not make a field goal in the final 4:50.
Foster scored 23 points and grabbed six rebounds to pace five Bluejays in double-figures. Ballock, who grew up 35 miles away in nearby Eudora, Kan., put up a career-high 22 points in 30 minutes off the bench. Also in double-figures were Thomas (16), Alexander (12) and Davion Mintz (10). Ronnie Harrell Jr. grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds in his first career start, the most rebounds by a Bluejay in one game since Doug McDermott vs. Tulsa in 2013.
Creighton shot 49.3 percent for the game, including 11-of-29 from three-point land. The Bluejays were 23-of-35 at the stripe and outrebounded the bigger Bruins, 44-36. Creighton owned a 40-27 edge in bench points and had just eight turnovers in 85 possessions.
UCLA was paced by 25 points from Aaron Holiday, and 18 more off the bench by Prince Ali. Thomas Welsh battled foul trouble to wrap with 16 points and 13 rebounds. UCLA shot 44.1 percent from the floor and made 23-of-31 free throws.
NOTES; Creighton has defeated top-25 teams in consecutive games for the first time in program history … Creighton’s 100 points were a Hall of Fame Classic record for the championship rounds, one more than the 99 CU scored vs. IUPUI in a 2002 semifinal when the event was known as the Guardians Classic .. Creighton improved to 3-1 all-time against UCLA … Creighton has won 31 straight games when scoring 100 or more points … Creighton has made a three-pointer in 787 straight games .. Khyri Thomas has made a three-pointer in 18 straight games and Marcus Foster has scored in double-figures in 22 straight contests … Creighton has scored 100 or more points 17 times since 2010-11 (when Greg McDermott was hired), tied for fifth-most nationally … Creighton has scored 90 points or more in each of its first four games for the first time in program history … Creighton has now beaten six top-25 teams since the start of last season, and is 11-20 under Greg McDermott against the top-25 … McDermott’s 11 wins vs. ranked teams are the most in program history, four more than Dana Altman … Creighton has won six straight games vs. top-25 teams not named Villanova … Creighton is 29-135 all-time against the top-25 … Creighton has beaten two or more ranked teams in seven different seasons. Four of those have come under Greg McDermott (2013-14, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18).
Creighton Press Conference Quotes
Head Coach Greg McDermott
“It was a great win for us. We really weathered some serious foul trouble at a time when we just don’t have any depth, we’re really thin on the front line. We went small a bunch tonight. That’s a technique, fundamental, do-your-job effort on the glass that allowed us to hang around and make a run there to start the second half.”
McDermott on play of Ty-Shon Alexander and Mitch Ballock
“I don’t think anybody expects freshmen to perform this well on this stage, but as I’ve stated before, they’re basketball players. They’ve got in innate feel for the game that you don’t really teach. You combine that with the fact that Marcus, Khyri, and Toby and Tyler, in particular, have done an unbelievable job in mentoring them and asking them questions and making sure that they understand that these seniors believe in them. Just go play and if you make a mistake go to the next play.”
McDermott on game-planning for contrasting styles in the championship game
“You don’t get a rest when you play a team like UCLA because they’re going to try to force the pace as well, but regardless of who we play tomorrow night they’re both good programs, we’ve played both of them. We’ve had some success against Wisconsin and they’re great again, and we got our teeth kicked in by Baylor when we played them in the NCAA Tournament. It’s a very different game prep for the two teams. We’ll catch this game tonight and go to work.”
Marcus Foster on maintaining poise in a high-energy game
“Honestly, it’s our scout team. I feel like they’re one of the best. They really prepare us for our games.”
Foster on UCLA switching to a zone and then the Creighton run before halftime
“The zone kind of threw us off a little bit. We were so used to getting up and down in transition. It was kind of hard for us to slow it down a bit, but we adjusted to it and Mitch (Ballock) did some big things for us. The momentum we had going into halftime really helped us.”
UCLA Press Conference
“They’re very good basketball team. My hat goes off to Creighton, they are really good, in particular, offensively. There were a lot of hard match ups, and we had some young guys playing, but this will be a good lesson as we go back and watch tape, continue to work on what we have to do defensively because I thought that was really the key. We just couldn’t put together any stops of matter that could get us over the hump. Offensively, we did a lot of good things, 17 assists, 7 turnovers, we shot the ball pretty well. We had inside out going like we wanted to get. We just couldn’t get the stops, that was the big key.”
How prepared were you for 24, I know he is a freshman, and you only had a couple of games to watch him. He had a stretch at the end of the first half, then 10 straight points in the second half?
“Very prepared, just a very good player. We saw him on tape and talked to our guys about him. Last night it was obviously a pretty quick turnaround, but we had some time to go over him, as we did all these other guys. We gave him way too many good looks. He is not just a shooter, he put the ball on the floor and got to the free throw line. He did a lot of good things, he was on our scouting report as an outstanding player and we didn’t defend him well.”
I am hesitant to even ask this, but I am curious as to your thoughts on President Trump’s comments
“My whole focus has been on Creighton. I control what I can control, this team controls what we can control, and that is our locker room. That didn’t have one thing to do with how we guarded tonight. So we just have to go back to the hotel and watch some tape. We will find out, in a couple of hours, who we have to play, and try to do better tomorrow”
Kris Wilkes is full of potential, I am curious a week or two into the season who you are seeing that mature
“He has gotten off to a great start. We have played four games, and tonight he was 15 and 6, which is close to his average. He is scoring the ball well. He didn’t make his three ball today like he has been making, but got to the free throw line. Like a lot of young guys, we really have to defend. It really depends on what we do defensively is kind of where we go this year. This is as good of offensive team that we are going to play in a long time. They have a lot of weapons, a lot of guys that can make shots, and make threes. It was a good lesson for us, but Kris is off to a really good start.”
You have been travelling a lot, and had a crazy couple week span with what happened. Has that had any effect on at all? That is a lot of changes in a span of a week and half to two weeks
“I hope not. We are going to build some toughness here in November and December. It is not an ideal schedule, that is for sure. We are playing six BCS schools, which is more than anyone in the country, and now we have to do a lot of travelling. We are going to China and back, KC and back, Michigan and back, New Orleans and back. So we have a ton of travel. We have to handle that travel, and show some toughness. We need to mature as quickly as we can. Right now, we are playing eight guys. Five of them didn’t play last year for us so there is a learning curve. We have to be patient, as long as we can see some strides. I thought we showed some strides today offensively. We haven’t clicked offensively. Today, we really clicked offensively, but defensively, we took some steps back playing against the best offensive team we have played to date. Hopefully we can learn from that, and the guys can see that there is a big difference from this level of offense compared to the other offenses.”
For both players, coach has eluded to it, little bit uneven offensively and this is probably the best opponent you have played thus far. This was a chance, against a top tier team, to see what you are made of. What did you learn tonight about how good you can be
“Offensively we clicked. It has been a minute since we have clicked like that, so that’s great. We just learned that we need to play hard on defense, keep guys in front of us, and finish the game out with a steal or rebound. We just need to focus on defense, because the offense is going to be there.”
Prince Ali –
“Similar to what Aaron said, we could have played better defense and we took strides on offense, but it was stops at the end of the game that we needed and didn’t get. That’s why we lost.”
Coach, do you have any updates on the length or timing of the suspension of any of the players
“No, it’s still student conduct, we have no control over that.”
Coach, when you guys switched to zone in the second half, they kind of sputtered a little bit on offense. Where you trying to see how your team would respond to that? You guys don’t play a ton of zone, especially early on in the season.
“It’s early in the season, we are trying to figure ourselves out too. What we do defensively, and the schemes that we have zone wise is stuff we just have to keep working on. Obviously, playing a team like this that is so good offensively, they can exploit an awful lot of weaknesses. Its early in the season, and we prepared one way for six weeks and now we have had to make those changes here in the last couple of weeks. We have to be patient, which is why I hope we see strides game to game. I will be anxious to see what happens tomorrow defensively regardless of who we play of just how we are positionly, how we talk, and how help each other out.”