OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Creighton had its long winning streak against Nebraska end last year, and even though the Cornhuskers have a first-year coach and 14 new players, that didn't tamp down the Bluejays' desire for payback.
The Bluejays sought to re-establish themselves as the dominant program in the state, and they left no doubt they are Saturday.
Marcus Zegarowski scored 30 points to lead four Creighton players in double figures, and the Bluejays made fast work of rebuilding Nebraska in a 95-76 win at the sold-out CHI Health Center.
Zegarowski made four 3-pointers, finished 13 of 19 from the field, grabbed a career-high nine rebounds and matched his season high with six assists for the Bluejays (7-2).
“It’s a huge deal not only for the team but for the whole fan base, everybody who supports Creighton," Zegarowski said. “Obviously last year didn’t go like we wanted. This year we bounced back and won the game handily, although we wanted to win it more handily. Didn’t happen. I’m still happy for my guys."
The Bluejays lost 94-75 in Lincoln last year, ending their seven-game win streak in the series. They also had to endure taunts from fans after it was disclosed Creighton had come up in an FBI investigation into college basketball.
“It really hurt a lot," said Ty-Shon Alexander, who had a season-high 22 points with four 3s. “Especially all the messages and the things people were saying down at Nebraska last year. We took it personal. We wish we could have beat them (by) more. We did what we had to do. Great win for us."
Haanif Cheatham led the Cornhuskers (4-5) with 14 points. Cam Mack and Thor Thorbjarnarson had 12 apiece.
With a pro-Creighton crowd of 18,068 that included Governor Pete Ricketts on hand, first-year Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg got a baptism by fire in the annual game between the state's top Division I programs.
In a game reminiscent of 2013, when Creighton got out to a 38-8 lead against the Tim Miles-coached Huskers, the Bluejays were up 37-7 with six minutes left in the first half and were never threatened.
“Give Creighton credit," Hoiberg said. “They threw the first punch — the second, third and fourth punches as well."
Damien Jefferson, who entered the game 1 for 15 on 3-pointers, and Alexander each made a couple shots from distance as the Bluejays opened an 18-2 lead. Zegarowski scored 12 points over the next eight minutes as the advantage ballooned to 42-11.
Nebraska made just 2 of its first 19 shots and finished the first half 8 of 34 and down 48-22.
Hoiberg said the game plan was to get back on defense and slow down the the up-tempo Bluejays. That didn't happen. On the offensive end, the Huskers settled for bad shots rather than getting the ball inside.
“When you dig yourself that type of hole, it’s hard,” Hoiberg said. “You’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself and expending a lot of energy trying to climb back."
The Huskers whittled into the lead in the second half. They used an 18-7 spurt to pull within 67-48, but Zegarowski made a couple shots and Mitch Ballock hit a 3-pointer to get it back to 74-49. Nebraska never got closer than 20 points until the final minute, when the Huskers closed a 10-0 run with reserves playing for both teams.
Hoiberg took some consolation in his team scoring 54 points and shooting 61% in the second half.
“If you don't play a complete 40 minutes against a team like this," Hoiberg said, “you’re going to be in trouble."
Nebraska: One of Hoiberg's concerns has been his team tending to fold when adversity strikes. The Huskers easily could have quit after falling behind quickly, but they didn't. They missed more than two shots in a row only once after half.
Creighton: The Bluejays reasserted their control in the series and have now won all six of their home games by no fewer than nine points. The Bluejays hold a 27-26 edge in the series and hasn't lost to Nebraska in Omaha since the 2004 NIT.
Nebraska guard Samari Curtis has decided to transfer, Hoiberg announced. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound freshman from Xenia, Ohio, appeared in the first eight games and averaged 1.8 points and 0.9 rebounds.
DON'T BE LATE
Thorbjarnarson made his first start of the season for Nebraska. He replaced Mack, who started the first eight games at point guard. Hoiberg's reason: : "He was one minute late to the bus today. Be on time."
Nebraska opens Big Ten play at Indiana on Friday.
Creighton hosts Texas-Rio Grande Valley on Friday.
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