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Creighton-Syracuse Preview

AP - Sports

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- - Star center Kayla Alexander will cap off her stellar career by trying to help No. 7 seed Syracuse win its first NCAA tournament game Saturday against 10th-seed Creighton.

Alexander said she didn't know about 22nd-ranked Syracuse's lack of NCAA tournament wins until after the brackets were released Monday.

"That's when people started telling us we hadn't won a tournament game," Alexander said. "We took that as a challenge and an opportunity. As an athlete, you're always up for a challenge, right?"

Alexander is Syracuse's first 2,000-point scorer ever. The 6-foot-4 senior also owns Syracuse career records in field goals (729), free throws made (543) and blocks (350). She's two points away from the single-season school record of 552 points set last year by Iasia Hemingway.

"You have to have a go-to player on both ends of the floor," Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. "She's been that for us for four years."

Alexander, averaging 17.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks while shooting 52.3 percent from the field, could cause a major matchup problem for an undersized Creighton team. Alyssa Kamphaus, a 6-3 junior center, is the only Creighton player taller than 6 feet.

Creighton (24-7) could compensate with its 3-point attack. Creighton has made 9.3 baskets from 3-point range per game, an average that ranks behind only Florida Gulf Coast (9.4). The 3-pointer should play a big role Saturday, as Syracuse (24-7) is the first Creighton opponent all season that relies almost exclusively on a zone defense.

"It's a little bit scary because we're not the best zone offensive team," said Creighton guard Ally Jensen, who averages a team-high 6.2 3-point attempts and is tied for the team lead with 2.3 made per game.

"We've seen some zone, and we handle it well about half the time and sometimes we don't," she added. "They're a pure zone team, so we've prepared for it and we have offenses put in that we've been working on in practice. I think we're going to be ready to go, and everybody knows they have to have it loaded up and be ready to shoot."

Freshman guard Marissa Janning leads the Bluejays with 13.0 points per game, and she's tied with Jensen with an average of 2.3 made 3-pointers.

Creighton's RPI is 41, led by victories over fellow NCAA teams South Dakota State, South Florida and Nebraska - which was ranked No. 25 at the time.

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