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Creighton can revel in a road win, but defense needs work


Mike Miller

Creighton can revel in an impressive road victory that it never quite pulled off last season.

The Blue Jays staged a monster rally Wednesday night against San Diego State – a team with wins against two Pac-12 teams and the best of the Big West – for an 85-83 win that moved them to 6-0 for the first time since 2004. For a team that was 3-11 in true road games a year ago, it was worth celebrating.

“When we were down 31-14, we would have hung our heads last year, given to what they were doing to us,” sophomore Doug McDermott told the Omaha World-Herald. “The leadership we have didn’t allow us to give up. It feels so good because to compare where we were last year to where we are today, it’s a night-and-day difference.”

Creighton should enjoy it. More true road wins might be rare this season.

The Blue Jays boast an offense that can score in bunches and an experienced roster, both of which showed against the Aztecs. McDermott, an All-America candidate, finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, while senior guard Antoine Young added 18 points and sophomore Ethan Wragge had 19. These birds can shoot (61.6 eFG%, tops among D-I teams and 45.1 percent from beyond the arc) and don’t turn the ball over.

But they can’t really defend.

San Diego State was its first solid opponent this season and the result was 85 points in just 74 possessions, good for 1.12 points per trip. On the season, Creighton’s allowing 1.002 points per possession, right at the D-I average.

That’s not unusual, either. Greg McDermott’s squad was only slightly better than that (1.02) last season. Teams with comparable defenses from 2010-11? Colorado, Missouri State and Mississippi State. No team that allowed more than a point per possession received an at-large big last season. There were only eight in the NCAA tournament.

Still, it’s tough to overlook Creighton.

The offense is great (1.14 PPP through six games, which it topped vs. SDSU in a hostile environment) and McDermott is an elite player who’s capable of carrying Creighton when needed. And it has only been six games.

True road games at St. Joe’s and Tulsa remain. But the biggest test will be a Dec. 22 home game against Northwestern, one of the few teams on the Blue Jays’ schedule that can match them shot for shot.

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