Creighton faced little difficulty in bouncing back from its first loss, posting its most lopsided victory of the season over a much softer opponent its last time out.
While Tulsa’s record leaves much to be desired, the 23rd-ranked Bluejays aren’t taking Monday night’s road matchup against the Golden Hurricane lightly.
After cruising to its first 7-0 start in seven seasons, Creighton (8-1) lost 80-71 at St. Joseph’s on Dec. 10. With a week off to regroup, the Bluejays came out with an inspired effort Saturday, blowing out Houston Baptist 97-62.
Sophomore Doug McDermott, who ranks second in the nation with 24.1 points per game, scored 25.
“When you win, you get used to it, and sometimes you forget that you can do more. Losing was like a shock. It was a wakeup call, and we had to go back to work,” said center Gregory Echenique, who posted season highs of 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks.
“We knew we couldn’t let the same thing happen as last week. We had to make a statement. We have two big games coming up, and we had to start now.”
Creighton, which hosts Northwestern (10-1) on Thursday before opening conference play Dec. 28 against Missouri State, stands to become all the more formidable if Echenique can build on his most recent effort. The Bluejays are 9-0 when the Venezuelan junior - a transfer from Rutgers - scores at least 15 points.
“I was really hard on him for a couple days, just on his effort and concentration and his ability to impact the game more than he was impacting the game,” coach Greg McDermott said. “He got some extra work in with my coaching staff, just keeping the ball a little higher, being more aggressive and using his lower body. He brought what he had done on the practice floor onto the game floor (Saturday), and that was very encouraging to see.”
Creighton now looks for its momentum to carry over against Tulsa (5-6), which holds a 43-32 advantage in the all-time series. The teams, however, haven’t met since the Bluejays prevailed 86-76 on the road exactly 11 years ago Monday.
The Golden Hurricane, who entered Saturday in the midst of a 1-6 skid, defeated Texas-Arlington 80-75 in overtime in their first game in 10 days. Five Tulsa players scored in double figures - most notably Scottie Haralson and Steven Idlet, who each had a team-high 15.
Jordan Clarkson, who ranks fifth in Conference USA with 15.5 points per game, scored 14 but committed a season-worst six turnovers.
“We needed this win really bad, so we could get over this hump that we’ve stumbled over really, losing a couple games,” Clarkson said. “We really wanted to get this win at home to try to boost our confidence going into this Creighton game.”
Tulsa, averaging 65.9 points, is all but certain to have its hands full with a Bluejays team that ranks among the top 10 nationally in both points per game (86.3) and field-goal percentage (50.8).
Since knocking off then-No. 16 Dayton on March 20, 2003, the Golden Hurricane have been outscored by 16.1 points per game in dropping 18 consecutive meetings with ranked opponents. Tulsa’s last home victory versus a Top-25 foe came Jan. 25, 1999, 72-62 over then-No. 24 TCU.