GAME NOTES: Long-time regional rivals get together on Saturday afternoon, as the Tulsa Golden Hurricane come calling on the 23rd-ranked Creighton Bluejays.
Tulsa has yet to record a win this season, falling at home to Oral Roberts (74-68) and Wichita State (77-54), as well as on the road at Missouri State (96-93). The Golden Hurricane are playing their second straight ranked opponent (Wichita State is No. 14), and they haven't beaten a member of the Top-25 since taking down No. 22 Dayton, 84-71, in the 2003 NCAA Tournament.
Creighton ran its record to 3-0 by claiming an 83-79 triumph at Saint Joseph's last weekend. The Bluejays, who return four starters from last year's club, also have victories over Alcorn State (107-61) and UMKC (96-70) on their ledger. They are one of the favorites in the new-look Big East Conference, and league play for them will get underway at home against Marquette on New Year's Eve.
Tulsa owns a 43-34 lead in the all-time series with Creighton, but the Bluejays have won the last three meetings.
Having not put a tally in the win column as of yet, it's not surprising that Tulsa is giving up more points than it scores (82.3 ppg to 71.7 ppg), although the team owns a better field goal percentage (.467) than its opponents (.443). The Golden Hurricane, which features only two double-digit scorers in Shaquille Harrison (14.7 ppg) and Rashad Smith (14.7 ppg), are being beaten badly on the boards (-12 rpg), and they are converting only 57.7 percent of their free throws. In the recent loss to Wichita State, no Tulsa starter scored more than eight points, as reserve Pat Swilling led the way with a dozen. The team shot just 39.5 percent from the field, and saw a 31-31 halftime score balloon to 77-54 in favor of the Shockers just 20 minutes later. Tulsa was outrebounded by a 43-29 margin.
Led by National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott (25.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg), the Bluejays are lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 95.3 ppg here in the early going, draining 54 percent of their total shots, which includes a 47.3 percent showing from beyond the arc. Ethan Wragge (14.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and Devin Brooks (11.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg) lend support to McDermott, but neither has started a game to this point. Defensively, Creighton is permitting 70.0 ppg, with foes shooting just 40 percent from the floor. The Jays also own favorable margins in both rebounding (+12.0) and turnovers (+2.0). Wragge knocked down seven 3-pointers on his way to 21 points in the recent win at Saint Joseph's, and McDermott tallied 20 for the Bluejays, who made good on 55.4 percent of their total shots, 50.0 percent from downtown, and 80 percent at the charity stripe. Brooks finished with 16 points and Grant Gibbs tacked on 11.
Despite the history between these two, Creighton is clearly the superior team at the moment, and it won't take long for McDermott and company to set the tone, allowing them to cruise to another victory.