Creighton’s teams are known as the Bluejays. Given the relative lack of experience, the “Greenjays” might be a better moniker, at least as the season begins.
With five new starters taking the floor Tuesday night, Creighton trailed lowly-regarded Arkansas-Pine Bluff 26-11 in the first half and 47-38 at halftime before rallying in the second half for a 90-77 decision.
The Bluejays will try for a more consistent performance Thursday night when they welcome Kennesaw State to Omaha for each team’s second game.
Alex O’Connell tied his career high against Arkansas-Pine Bluff with 20 points, while freshman guard Ryan Nembhard compiled a 15-point, 10-assist double-double. Another freshman, Arthur Kaluma, checked in with 15 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
Kaluma and Nembhard were part of the nation’s seventh-ranked recruiting class, likely the best that coach Greg McDermott has ever attracted in his lengthy career.
“For a young team, I was really proud of the way they responded,” McDermott said to the Omaha World-Herald. “Our execution in the second half was really good.”
Creighton canned its first 10 shots of the second half and went 22-of-29 from the field in the half. It also held the Golden Lions to 9-of-37 shooting after halftime.
As for Kennesaw State, it started its season Tuesday night with an 84-73 loss at Iowa State. The Owls never led but stayed in contention most of the way, even cutting a 17-point second half deficit to six before the Cyclones finally put them away.
Terrell Burden scored a game-high 21 points for Kennesaw State, going 13-of-19 at the foul line. Chris Youngblood added 16 points and a career-high eight rebounds, but 24 turnovers ultimately doomed the Atlantic Sun Conference squad.
“We showed some fight, we showed some togetherness,” said coach Amir Abdur-Rahim. “We did a really good job of playing our style defensively and offensively with our tempo. We fought and finished the game playing hard.”
Creighton has won all three meetings between the programs, including a 93-58 decision last December in Omaha.
–Field Level Media
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