Creighton hosts Marquette in its 1st Big East game

Updated: December 31, 2013, 3:38 AM ET
Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. -- Omaha's biggest New Year's Eve party will happen at the CenturyLink Center when Big East newcomer Creighton opens its conference schedule against Marquette.

"It's what we've all been waiting for -- fans and players, coaches," Bluejays star Doug McDermott said. "This is the one to get started off on the right track. I expect a Wichita State-type atmosphere."

McDermott was referring to the afternoon last March when more than 18,000 fans showed up to see him score 41 points in the Bluejays' championship-clinching win over the Final Four-bound Shockers in their final Missouri Valley regular-season game. Eighteen days later Creighton, along with Butler and Xavier, officially joined the reconstituted Big East.

Marquette, from Milwaukee, figures to be the Bluejays' chief rival. Both teams are from similar-sized Jesuit schools, and they've played 76 times. They met regularly from the 1950s through the 1980s but haven't seen each other since 1998.

Tuesday's late-night game should end shortly before revelers ring in 2014. Marquette coach Buzz Williams expects a juiced-up crowd at an arena that ranks fourth nationally in attendance.

"The players have been talking about what Creighton's gym is like," he said. "They know Doug McDermott, they know this guy, they know that guy, so it'll be good."

The Bluejays (10-2) feature the Big East preseason player of the year and nation's second-leading scorer in McDermott. The two-time first-team All-American is scoring 24.8 points a game and, along with Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Manigat, leads one of the nation's most dangerous perimeter-shooting teams.

During the Bluejays' current five-game win streak, 55 percent of their field-goal scoring has been a product of 3-point shots. Creighton made 16 of 25 in a 32-point win over Chicago State on Sunday. At one point, 15 of the Bluejays' 19 field goals were 3s.

Creighton coach Greg McDermott said he doesn't worry about the reliance on deep shots. He pointed out that if the Bluejays' 43.7-percent accuracy holds, they would net at least 12 points every 10 possessions they shoot 3-pointers.

"That's good enough to win a lot of basketball games," he said. "So if we can get the guys shooting it loose, they've got the green light. They always have had, and they always will."

Marquette (8-5) has played one of the nation's most difficult schedules after losing Vander Blue and three other starters from the team that tied for the Big East regular-season championship and reached an NCAA regional final.

The Golden Eagles are led by senior forwards Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson, who have combined to average 25 points and 11 rebounds. Of Marquette's five top scorers, four are seniors.

Even with a veteran team, Williams is concerned about the CenturyLink Center atmosphere. He said it probably will be similar to the Bradley Center when Marquette played its inaugural Big East game in January 2006. The Tom Crean-coached Golden Eagles upset unbeaten and second-ranked Connecticut 94-79 behind Steve Novak's career-high 41 points.

"They just blitzed them," Williams said. "I think we're walking into a buzz-saw, and I think they're waiting. They're hyped and ready to go. Everybody that'll be wearing royal blue and white and hollering for the Bluejays are really excited we're coming to town."


Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

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