The three certainties in life: death, taxes and Miles beating McDermott.
That’s what Tim Miles said to open his pregame media availability on Friday and it proved true once again as Creighton (7-2) came from behind to beat Nebraska (7-4) 75-65 at CenturyLink Center Omaha on Saturday afternoon.
Creighton has won seven straight games against the Huskers and Miles is 0-13 against Creighton coach Greg McDermott in his career. The Bluejays pull ahead in the all-time series 26-25.
After trailing for much of the game, Creighton pulled ahead midway through the second half and built the lead up to six. Nebraska pulled within one a couple of different times and trailed by three after a bucket by senior guard James Palmer Jr. with 1:04 to play, and the Huskers used their last timeout to stop the clock.
Nebraska came out in a 1-3-1 defense after the break to throw a different look at Creighton, but senior guard Marcus Foster buried a deep 3 to double the lead with 47 seconds to play.
“They had scored four straight possessions, and our 1-3-1 has been effective,” Miles said. “I thought it forced a difficult shot but they made the play. I believe in our guys; I thought we did a lot of right things and probably contested late, but the guy’s standing out there on the Iowa-Nebraska border shooting it.”
Copeland missed a 3 on the other end and Creighton closed the game at the free-throw line.
Nebraska held Creighton to 5-of-21 shooting from 3 and hit nine triples on their end of the floor, but Creighton outscored Nebraska inside the arc and from the free-throw line. The Jays turned the ball over 10 times in the first half and finished with 14 to just nine for Nebraska, but Creighton’s last giveaway came at the 12:47 mark as the Jays closed the game on a 32-22 run.
Isaac Copeland led the Huskers with 20 points and 11 rebounds (his first double-double as a Husker), but he shot just 8-of-19 from the floor. Junior guard James Palmer Jr. finished with 11 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Sophomore forward Isaiah Roby struggled with foul trouble all game but finished with 10 points in 13 minutes.
“This was a really good win for us and I think later in the season we’ll see how good of a win it is for us,” McDermott said. “I’ve said this week I feel like this is Tim’s most complete team. They’re very disruptive defensively with their length and their size in particular. We haven’t turned it over 10 times in a half very often in eight years and part of that was us being in a hurry but part of it, certainly, they were e little bit tougher than us.”
Five Bluejays scored in double figures led by senior guard Marcus Foster with 19 points, 17 of which came in the second half. Creighton’s second-leading scorer, Omaha native Khyri Thomas, was limited to 11 points, three assists and three turnovers in just 23 minutes thanks to foul trouble.
“We just put our best guys on him,” Miles said about the defensive effort on Foster. “We had a guy like Evan [Taylor] on him and Anton [Gill], and those guys do a good job of chasing through screens and giving him very little space, and a couple shot she did hit were tougher than heck. We knew he could do that, but I think when you look at him you’ve got to give your best effort. I think we spent a lot of energy trying to get he and Khyri off-kilter and we did for a lot of the night.”
Thomas, the reigning Big East co-Defensive Player of the Year, was tasked with guarding junior point guard Glynn Watson Jr. for much of the game (when neither was on the bench with foul trouble) and Watson finished with eight points on 4-of-14 shooting.
“I think he got to Glynn,” Miles said. “There’s no doubt Glynn didn’t have his best night and that length probably bothered him. We tried to shake him loose, but there’s no doubt I think that had an impact on him. Khyri’s a terrific defender, just so terrific. That was a tough match-up for us, especially then when Glynn got in foul trouble in the second half.”
After missing their first five shots, the Huskers caught fire and hit four straight (including three triples) to take an 11-7 lead. A 3-pointer by Isaac Copeland put the Huskers up five, but back-to-back buckets by Creighton knotted the game at 17-all.
After trading buckets, Nebraska scored six straight to take a 25-19 lead. A put-back plus the foul cut the lead to three but two straight scores by Copeland pushed it back to seven. Creighton got within three, but a pull-up jumper by Watson pushed it back to five and Nebraska took a 33-28 lead into halftime.
“We were a little nervous early,” Miles said. “You could see it; we were tight. Then we kind of loosens up and started getting the ball to the rim. Isaac was terrific. Evan made some good plays at the same time and I thought we were in pretty good shape.”
After hitting five of their first eight 3-pointers, the Huskers missed their last four. However, Creighton shot 2-of-12 from 3 and 2-of-7 from the free-throw line in the first half to post their lowest first-half point total since their loss to Rhode Island in the NCAA Tournament last season.
Nebraska opened the second half with a 3-pointer by Copeland to take its largest lead of the game, but Foster answered with a 3 of his own and Khyri Thomas converted a three-point play to cut it to two. Soon after, both Thomas and Watson picked up their third fouls and took a seat.
After a dunk by Copeland, Creighton went on a 9-2 run to pull ahead 43-40 with just under 14 minutes to play. After a timeout, Miles put Watson back in the game and he immediately found Roby in the corner for a 3 to tie it up.
The teams traded 4-0 runs to create a 47-all tie, then Creighton used an 8-2 run to pull ahead by six. Watson picked up his fifth foul on a rebound with 2:47 to play, leading to the stretch run and Foster’s dagger.
“The second half we came out and we missed, what, three layups?” Miles said. “A put-back dunk and two layups that are bunnies, then we took a bad shot and at the same time they’re going down and scoring. So they make that little run to gobble up our lead and we just have to avoid those. If you’re going to beat a good team on the road, you have to avoid this little hiccups.”
The Huskers will return home to host No. 2 Kansas on Tuesday. The Jayhawks are coming off their first loss of the season as Washington beat them 74-65 in Kansas City on Wednesday. The Jayhawks will first host No. 16 Arizona State on Sunday before heading to Lincoln. Kansas beat Nebraska 89-72 at Allen Fieldhouse last season.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.