OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Creighton coach Greg McDermott said he couldn’t help but feel a little apprehensive heading into his team’s game against DePaul on Wednesday night.
That’s because it had been 10 days since the 13th-ranked Bluejays last played.
“I didn’t know exactly what to expect coming off a layoff,” he said. “I was pleased with our practice. I thought we got better last week working on some of the things we needed to work on and I thought our preparation for DePaul was really good. Guys approached it with a lot of enthusiasm and energy.
“And then we came out a little bit flat.”
Any worries disappeared about five minutes into the game as the Bluejays’ revved up and pulled away for a 77-53 win.
Marcus Zegarowski, Christian Bishop and Denzel Mahoney scored 13 points apiece and Creighton (17-5, 13-4 Big East) won for the seventh time in eight games, including four straight.
Creighton’s 10-day break was on its original schedule, not because of COVID-19 issues. The Bluejays ended up making fast work of DePaul after trailing by eight points early, closing the first half on a 21-5 run, opening the second with an 11-2 spurt and building the lead to as many as 30 points.
“We didn’t help our cause midway through the first half and the start of the second half,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. “We turned it over unforced, took early and not-good shots and didn’t protect the backboards. When you do that consecutively, not only do you pay a price on the scoreboard, it becomes a confidence builder for your opponent and deflating for your guys.”
DePaul (4-11, 2-11) sustained its most lopsided loss since a 38-point defeat to Providence last March.
The Blue Demons were coming off their best performance of the season, an 88-83 win at St. John’s on Saturday in which they shot 63% from the field, tied for the best mark in the Big East this season.
They got out to a quick 11-3 lead against the Bluejays, but after making 4 of 8 shots to open the game, they went 5 for their next 25 as Creighton pulled away.
DePaul finished at 35.5% from the field, with Romeo Weems and Charlie Moore scoring nine points apiece. Moore had entered the game as Big East player of the week after scoring 24 points and recording eight assists against St. John’s.
“We had a little bit of rust with the time off,” Mahoney said. “Mentally, we were there. After that first media timeout, we locked in.”
DePaul: The Blue Demons came nowhere close to duplicating their performance at St. John’s four days earlier and haven’t won back-to-back Big East games since March 2019.
Creighton: The Bluejays beat DePaul for the 14th straight time and remain in contention to win or share the conference title with two of their last three regular-season games on the road.
HOW ABOUT THAT DEFENSE?
Offense is Creighton’s calling card. The Bluejays have been pretty good on the defensive end, too.
In their last three games, opponents have averaged 57 points, shot 33.7% overall and 29.9% on 3-pointers.
“For the most part, we’ve been a better defensive team this year, and as the season has gone on they’ve become more connected,” McDermott said. “Their ability to follow and trust the scouting report is better and I’ve got some veteran guys out there.”
DePaul was missing second-leading scorer Javon Freeman-Liberty (concussion) for the third straight game and backup center Nick Ongenda (right ankle).
DePaul hosts Georgetown on Saturday.
Creighton visits Xavier on Saturday.
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