Northwestern-Creighton Preview

The Associated Press

Doug McDermott's impressive scoring run is a big reason Creighton is closing in on its best start in eight seasons.

Accomplishing that feat, however, could prove difficult for the 23rd-ranked Bluejays and their emerging sophomore as they host Northwestern and high-scoring forward John Shurna on Thursday night.

McDermott has topped 20 points in nine consecutive games and had a career-best 35 in an 83-64 victory at Tulsa on Monday. The 6-foot-7 forward - a former high school teammate of North Carolina star Harrison Barnes - made 16 of 23 shots while boosting his scoring average to 25.2, second-highest in the nation.

"It was just one of those games," McDermott said. "I had the touch around the basket early and my teammates did a great job of finding me."

McDermott is shooting 62.6 percent from the field and 57.5 percent from 3-point range, helping Creighton (9-1) rank among the national leaders in both categories at 51.6 and 43.5, respectively. The Bluejays, who also won nine of 10 to open the 2007-08 season, now seek their best start since winning their first 12 games in 2003-04.

They're also looking to match the longest win streak in their current home arena, which opened during that same season. Earning that 16th consecutive victory in Omaha might not be an easy task with Northwestern (10-1) heading into town.

The Wildcats are going for their best start since opening 11-1 in 1982-83. They easily defeated Georgia Tech 76-60 in their only true road game, and their only loss came to unbeaten Baylor - currently ranked No. 6.

Plus, Northwestern beat the Bluejays 65-52 in Evanston, Ill., last November as Shurna had a team-best 23 points. McDermott, who averaged 14.9 points as a freshman, scored 14 in that game on 7-of-11 shooting.

Shurna enters this game averaging a Big Ten-best 19.5 points and shooting 43.1 percent from 3-point range. The 6-foot-9 senior bounced back from one of his worst shooting performances with 32 points and a school record-tying nine 3-pointers in an 87-72 victory over Eastern Illinois on Sunday.

Shurna made 11 of 16 from the field in that game after missing 11 of 14 and scoring 12 points in a win over Central Connecticut State the previous night.

"The odds are he had to make some shots tonight," coach Bill Carmody said. "He banged some shots, and people say, 'Did you talk to him or anything?'

"No, of course I didn't talk to him. I wouldn't know what to say. I can't con him into saying, 'You're alright kid,' or anything like that because he'd know I was just trying to fool him. So he came back tonight on his own and it was good to see."

That scoring performance wasn't even Shurna's best this season, having tallied 37 in a victory over LSU on Nov. 17. He scored 25 in the win over Georgia Tech but was held to 11 on 4-of-19 shooting in the loss to Baylor on Dec. 4.

Northwestern has dropped 13 in a row to Top 25 foes but holds a 3-1 series lead over Creighton.

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