Evansville-Creighton Preview

The Associated Press

Despite facing some adversity, Creighton has bounced back from its lone defeat with a chance to finish an undefeated December.

The 16th-ranked Bluejays will try to keep moving forward without one of their top players Saturday night when they go after their 14th consecutive home win against Evansville in the Missouri Valley Conference opener.

Josh Jones, Creighton's sixth man, announced during the team's 10-day layoff that he will not continue playing after undergoing a procedure Dec. 18 to locate and correct a heart condition known as an atrial flutter.

The Omaha native hasn't played since passing out during warmups before the Dec. 6 game at Nebraska.

"My life is more important,'' said Jones, who was fifth on the team with 7.0 points per game. "The game has gotten me this far. I'm the same person with or without it. But right now, and maybe forever, I'm just stepping away from the game.''

With Jones sidelined, sophomore guard Avery Dingman made a strong case to take over as the team's top reserve in Creighton's 71-54 victory over Tulsa on Dec. 19.

Dingman hit 8 of 9 shots to finish with career highs of 21 points, five 3-pointers and 23 minutes to help the Bluejays (11-1) win their fifth straight since falling to Boise State on Nov. 28.

"Josh was playing over 20 minutes a game, so those minutes had to go somewhere,'' Dingman said. "I talked to coach (Greg McDermott) about it. He's been getting on me and I've been ready.

"It's unfortunate not having Josh here, but somebody has got to step up, and I'm trying to play some big minutes.''

Junior forward Doug McDermott, third in the nation in scoring (23.1 points per game), will try to bounce back after being held to 16 points against Tulsa. The MVC preseason player of the year had averaged 27.7 points in his previous seven contests.

The Bluejays, who are averaging 11.6 turnovers per game, look to take better care of the ball after committing a season-high 17 against the Golden Hurricane.

"That's not what we've been about,'' Greg McDermott said.

It might not be easy against an Evansville team that has forced 60 turnovers in its last three games.

The Purple Aces (7-5) had won seven of nine following an 0-2 start before coming up short on Dec. 22 in a 75-67 road loss to in-state rival Butler.

Senior guard Colt Ryan, the team's scoring leader (13.7 ppg), is averaging 20.0 against Division I opponents in December after scoring a season-high 25 points.

Behind Ryan's career-high 43 points, the Purple Aces nearly ended their losing streak at Creighton in a 93-92 overtime defeat last February. He's averaging 23.3 points in seven career meetings against the Bluejays.

Evansville is 5-0 when outrebounding its opponent, and it may have a chance to win the battle of the boards Saturday. Creighton has been outrebounded 88-66 in its last two games.

The Bluejays dominated the glass the last time these teams met, though, posting a 43-17 edge in a 99-71 victory in the 2012 MVC tournament semifinals.

"We've got to do a lot of little things better because against good basketball teams, they're going to punch you in the mouth,'' Evansville coach Marty Simmons said.

The Purple Aces, who beat the Bluejays at home last season, look for their first win at Creighton since Jan. 4, 1999.

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