Omaha, Neb. — Powered by an unbelievable shooting night from sophomore Mitch Ballock, 11-of-12 from beyond the arc that yielded a career-high 39 points, the Creighton men’s basketball team defeated DePaul 91-78 on Saturday, March 9. The win pushed Creighton to 18-13 on the season and 9-9 in BIG EAST play, while DePaul closed the regular season at 15-14 overall and 7-11 in conference play.
The game couldn’t have started much better for the Bluejays as Creighton raced out to a 16-2 lead and never trailed. Creighton turned to its big man Martin Krampelj early as the junior from Slovenia scored the first seven points of the game. Ballock dropped in a layup to push Creighton’s advantage to 9-0 in the first four minutes. After DePaul got on the board, Ballock answered with the first of 11 trifectas beyond the arc. Buckets from Ty-Shon Alexander and Christian Bishop gave the Bluejays their 16-2 lead.
Over the following eight minutes, DePaul made an adjustment to push the ball into the paint. The result was a closure of the gap as the Blue Demons cut it to four at 26-22 and again at 28-24. Each time DePaul made it a two possession game, the Bluejays went inside for a dunk from Krampelj or Bishop. While the bigs were scoring down low, Ballock took advantage with five treys from long range in the half.
Holding a 30-25 edge with just over four minutes left, Ballock knocked down his third trey as Creighton pushed lead back to double-digits at 38-28 and took a 41-34 edge into halftime. Ballock and Krampelj finished the opening period with a combined 31 points, Ballock’s 17 points was the largest first half the Kansas native has delivered in a Bluejay uniform, and just a glimpse of what was in store for the second half.
While Ballock’s first half was special, his second half was even better. After going 6-for-6 from the field in the opening 20 minutes, Ballock was 6-for-8 from the field, including 6-for-7 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes.
Early in the second half Ballock and Krampelj continued to keep the Blue Demons at bay with 12 of Creighton’s first 17 points in the second half. Despite the best efforts of the Bluejays dynamic duo, DePaul continued to claw back into the game, closing Creighton’s lead to as little as three points at 66-63 with 9:17 left in the contest. Creighton delivered the knockout blow over the ensuing four minutes with a 16-6 burst. Krampelj got things started once more with an interior bucket. Following a defensive stop senior Kaleb Joseph connected from long range to make it 71-63. DePaul tried to answer with a trey from Eli Cain, but Ballock responded for Creighton with a pair of triples as well as three from the charity stripe to push Creighton’s lead out to 82-69 with 4:56 left.
The Bluejays went on to claim their fifth straight BIG EAST win to close the regular season. Ballock’s 39 points led all scorers, while Krampelj finished with seventh double-double of the season with 23 points and 10 rebounds. DePaul got a team-high 19 points from both Eli Cain and Max Strus in the loss.
The Bluejays return to the hardwood on Thursday, March 14 as the fifth-seeded Bluejays will face No. 4 Xavier at 1:30 p.m. at the BIG EAST Tournament presented by Jeep.