With top scorers Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields struggling at times Sunday night, Nebraska needed to get consistent offense from elsewhere.
The Huskers got it in the first half from David Rivers, who was 3-for-5 from the field and scored six points in the first 20 minutes. He finished with nine points and was Nebraska’s second-leading scorer.
The senior forward said he noticed Creighton was sagging off him, so he didn’t hesitate to take the open midrange jumper.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott said the extra space Rivers had was by design, and the Bluejays were going to stay committed to that strategy even if he was hitting shots. Same thing for Benny Parker, who played through hamstring tightness and hit two three-pointers in the second half. He finished with eight points.
“You have to commit so much to Petteway and Shields, and you have to back off of somebody,” McDermott said. “So Benny Parker hits a couple shots, David hits three or four shots from the perimeter, but we just made the decision that that’s something that we had to live with to try to take away Shields and Petteway the best we could.”
Rivers also pulled down eight rebounds.
Off the bench
McDermott noticed early that freshman forward Toby Hegner was a bit flustered — he was 0-for-2 on three-pointers in the first four minutes — so the coach was quick to go to his bench in search of outside shooting. The search didn’t take long, as senior Rick Kreklow came in and hit two three-pointers before halftime.
The bench production continued in the second half, as sophomore Isaiah Zierden also gave the Bluejays consistent outside scoring. Kreklow finished 3-for-3 from beyond the arc and scored nine points, and Zierden was 3-for-6 on three-pointers and was Creighton’s second-leading scorer with 13 points.
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In all, the Bluejays’ bench outscored Nebraska’s 30-8. McDermott only played Hegner for 12 minutes, and he finished 0-for-5 on three-pointers.
“Toby had five great looks, and, as I’ve said before, I have to remind myself that he’s a freshman,” McDermott said. “You hope that when one of your starters has an off night, somebody is there to take those minutes and make the most of them.”
Nebraska forward Moses Abraham produced one of the game’s most electric plays when he swatted an Avery Dingman shot out of bounds with 12 minutes, 58 seconds remaining in the game. Abraham was subbed out during the stoppage, though, and never came back in.
He briefly had his left ankle looked at on the sideline, but NU coach Tim Miles said afterward that the forward was healthy and available to go back into the game down the stretch.
“That’s a regret of mine,” Miles said when asked about Abraham’s absence. “I think I probably should have played him more.”
Miles went on to explain that he thought in order to stop Creighton guard Austin Chatman, the Huskers needed to switch all screen and rolls, and he didn’t feel comfortable putting Abraham in that situation.
“We just couldn’t catch up to some of the rotations (with Abraham in),” Miles said. “That was my decision for no other reason than screen-and-roll defense.”
In 15 minutes, Abraham was 2-for-2 from the field for four points, grabbed five rebounds and had two steals to go along with his one block.