Looking to build on the recent win over the then-No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs, the No. 2 Texas Longhorns are chasing the nation’s top ranking while seeking to hold onto the No. 1 spot from KenPom.com in a Thursday evening matchup against the No. 7 Creighton Bluejays at the Moody Center, the first of two games against top-25 opponents.
Texas hasn’t notched a home win in a top-10 matchup since defeating No. 9 Michigan State in 2009.
Creighton enters the contest 6-1 at losing in the championship game of the Maui Invitational to then-No. 14 Arizona, 90-87, following wins over then-No. 16 Texas Tech and then-No. 9 Arkansas. Center Ryan Kalkbrenner, a 7’1, 260-pounder who is capable of stretching the court, leads the way for the Bluejays scoring 16.1 points per game while guard Ryan Nembhard serves as the playmaker, averaging 5.7 assists per game and boasting a 40-to-9 assist-to-turnover mark on the season. As a team, Creighton shoots 38.2 percent from three-point range — four of the five starters shoot 42.3 percent or better from distance.
- Forward Timmy Allen
- Forward Dylan Disu
- Guard Tyrese Hunter
- Guard Marcus Carr
- Forward Dillon Mitchell
After Kalkbrenner opened the scoring with a post basket against Mitchell, Carr found a cutting Disu along the baseline for a reverse dunk for a second-chance bucket. With Carr missing his first three shots, Disu forced a turnover along the baseline, before Carr hit his first basket on a flex cut to the free-throw line and Mitchell added a second second-chance score on a short shot in the lane. Allen made his first basket dribbling to the free-throw line and Disu followed with a driving slam on a pump fake, but Creighton was keeping pace, making three straight field goals, including a three from forward Arthur Kaluma. As play continued past the 16-minute mark, Mitchell stepped into a jumper to retake the lead before Kalkbrenner scored on a lob dunk. Play finally stopped when Allen fouled guard Baylor Scheierman on a three-point attempt with Texas leading 14-13 as Creighton started the game 6-of-9 shooting from the field. It was the first foul called in the game at the 13:38 mark.
Scheierman hit two free throws before Allen scored with a bank shot from the left side in transition behind a nice screen on the block from former Creighton forward Christian Bishop before a quick media timeout with the score 16-15.
Play restarted with another foul on a jump shot, this time inside the arc on guard Sir’Jabari Rice with the shot clock at one. Creighton capitalized by hitting both. Bishop responded by driving on Kalkbrenner, then spinning on his pivot foot to hit a shot in the lane, then picked up an offensive foul with a sharp defensive rotation. As the Longhorns defense settled in and tightened, the Bluejays struggled from the field, missing six straight shots and going nearly six minutes without a field goal.
Texas wasn’t initially able to create much separation, but Hunter followed up a pullup jumper with a steal in a finish at the rim in transition to take a 22-17 lead and force a timeout by Creighton head coach Greg McDermott.
The shooting struggles continued after the timeout as the Bluejays missed three more shots, but the Longhorns cooled off as well with three straight missed shots and Kalkbrenner finally ended the drought when Disu was called for goaltending to send the game into the under-eight timeout at 22-19.
Carr ended the brief scoreless stretch for Texas by hitting his second shot, a banked runner in the lane, and Creighton responded when Kaluma hit a similar shot, although much more off balance, then a Kalkbrenner basket at the rim, and a Kaluma basket at the rim to force a timeout by Longhorns head coach Chris Beard as the Bluejays went on a 6-0 run and Texas was mired in a 1-of-7 shooting slump. The Longhorns also started the game missing their first five shots from three-point range, although the Bluejays weren’t much better at 1-of-9 shooting beyond the arc.
Both teams were sloppy out of the timeout, including an airball three from Texas guard Arterio Morris and a high-low turnover by Kalkbrenner trying to find Kaluma posted up. Finally, a curl cut from Hunter allowed him to get downhill and finish with a left-handed layup to stop the scoreless streak at 4:21 and retake the lead. A late-clock airball three by Creighton guard Ryan Nembhard energized the Moody Center crowd temporarily, but Hunter had a driving shot attempt blocked. When Carr took a rebound coast to coast for a tough finish through contact, the crowd came to its feet again as Carr completed the three-point play. Nembhard hit a wrong-footed layup in response before Hunter finally hit the first three of the game for the Longhorns and Texas went into halftime with a 32-27 lead.
Creighton finished the half 1-of-12 shooting from three (8.3 percent), with the biggest surprise the 0-for-6 start by Sheierman, the sharpshooter for the Bluejays who entered the game with a 41.7-percent mark over his career, but often missed badly over the opening 20 minutes. It was Kalkbrenner helping to keep the visitors within striking distance by hitting all five of his field-goal attempts in the first half, as well as a 4-for-6 shooting performance from Kaluma as the two combined to score 19 of the 27 first-half points by the Bluejays, a season low for Creighton.
Texas helped itself out by only committing one turnover, but only attempted one free throw and received a 3-of-11 shooting performance from Carr. The bench also failed to contribute much, shooting 1-of-7 with Bishop producing the only basket.
A steal by Mitchell on a Creighton offensive rebound led to a breakout on the second Texas possession of the second half with Hunter driving and finding Carr for an open three. Kalkbrenner remained a threat on the block, however, scoring for a sixth time close to the basket, then drawing a foul on Disu. Bishop hit a bank shot over Kalkbrenner after the Creighton center split his free throws, but Kaluma responded with a dunk and found Kalkbrenner on a lob to cut the Texas lead to three at the under-16 timeout as the Horns started the second half with 2-of-9 shooting from the floor.
Rice hit a three following two more misses out of the break and Carr hit another on the next possession to stretch the lead to seven points. Scheirmann to continued to miss from distance and Bishop finished a tough shot in the lane to force a Creighton timeout with Texas leading 45-36, its largest margin of evening. Notably, Kalkbrenner was not on the court for the 8-0 run by the Longhorns.
But Kalkbrenner’s return didn’t immediately stop the bleeding as a steal by Morris led to a layup by Allen on an assist from Carr in transition. Hard-nosed defense helped produce a traveling violation from a Creighton player on the floor, but Carr and Morris couldn’t hit threes to send the lead into double digits. The under-12 timeout came after guard Brock Cunningham was called for a foul while taking the ball away from Kalkbrenner on a double team.
Creighton started the second half 3-of-12 shooting, including six misses from three-point range, and also turned the ball over three times in the first 8:03. Meanwhile, Texas hit three threes and scored seven second-chance points.
Nembhard came out of the media break with a driving layup to end the run by the Longhorns, but Mitchell scored on a spinning post move in the paint before an up-and-down sequence that ultimately lead to a foul on Hunter, who was helped off the court with a cramping left calf. Kalkbrenner remained perfect from the floor by scoring on an offensive rebound and Nembhard hit a layup following a jumper by Carr in the lane, who later found Mitchell for a layup to push the margin back into double digits. A series of crossovers on Bishop helped Nembhard get into the lane and finish a layup and draw a blocking foul on Rice at the under-eight timeout.
Nembhard hit the free three to cut the Texas lead to eight before Allen drew a foul to take the second and third free throws of the evening for the Longhorns, splitting his trip to the line, then hitting an elbow jumper for an 11-point lead. Kalkbrenner scored on a lob dunk, but Hunter got into the lane for a short jumper to maintain the margin before Kaluma cut into on a dunk after an offensive rebound. The Creighton center finally missed a shot against a double team, but drew a shooting foul during the sequence, missing the first and making the second. Another layup by Nembhard cut the lead to six, but he wasn’t able to hit a three to further cut into the margin and Rice hit a one-footed fadeaway in the lane for a much-needed basket. Scheierman responded, however, by finally hitting his first three in 10 attempts to send the teams into the under-four timeout with Texas leading 62-57.
The Longhorns had multiple open looks from three after the break, but couldn’t connect on either and Scheierman hit a fadeaway jumper to beat the shot clock and cut the lead to three. Another jumper to beat the shot clock didn’t fall for Creighton after a missed three by Rice, but did fall for Carr along the baseline. Then Bishop led a break, finding Hunter for a layup and a seven-point lead with less than a minute remaining to drastically reduce hopes of a comeback by the Bluejays.
With 21.2 seconds remaining, Scheierman hit a desperation step-back three following Allen missing the front end of a one-and-one, sending the game into a timeout with the Texas lead down to four points. Creighton botched the out-of-bounds play, leading to a breakout dunk for Hunter, but Scheierman hit another desperation three to cut the lead to three with 11.4 seconds left.
Allen barely avoided a five-second violation in eventually finding Carr, who was fouled with 10.2 seconds on the clock. Carr hit the front end of the one-and-one and sunk the second. Nembhard responded with a driving layup and Cunningham was fouled with four seconds left. Facing another one-and-one, Cunningham hit the key free throw, followed by another, and Scheierman was forced into a final desperation three at the buzzer as Texas won 72-67.
Carr was one of four players to score in double digits for the Longhorns, leading the team with 19 points on 7-of-20 shooting with five assists while Hunter added 15 points, Allen scored 11 points, and Mitchell scored 10 points. Texas only turned the ball over three times in the game and Creighton wanted to force the Longhorns guards into the mid range and off the three-point line, but Texas was able to make some of those looks at the second level and Creighton made several mistakes going under screens.
With the Bluejays hitting 4-of-27 three-point attempts and often getting quality looks, Creighton just convert enough of those opportunities and only turned the ball over eight times while winning the rebound battle 44-42, two keys for McDermott coming into the game.
“Defensively, they are every bit as good as I thought,” McDermott said. “Their pace in transition was a little quicker than I thought. My big concern was can we hang on the glass and hang on to the basketball? Those two things kept us in it. We got beat by a really good team and I tip my hat to them.”