UAB-Creighton Preview

The Associated Press

With the season opener out of the way, Creighton coach Greg McDermott hopes to be a little more relaxed when his team faces a second straight opponent with a new coach.

The No. 15 Bluejays try for their 39th consecutive regular-season victory over an unranked, non-conference opponent in Omaha on Wednesday night against Alabama-Birmingham.

McDermott admitted he was extremely nervous heading into Creighton's opener against North Texas. With expectations high and facing an opponent picked to win the Sun Belt Conference, the Bluejays calmed their coach's nerves with a 71-51 victory over the Mean Green on Friday.

"I'm glad to get this one past us, because I don't mind playing good teams as long as I know something about the good teams,'' McDermott said. "In this situation, we just didn't know much about North Texas outside of their personnel with the new coaching staff. It's good to get this one in the 'W' column and move on.''

McDermott and his squad can use that experience Wednesday. Though the Bluejays won 70-60 at UAB last season, the Blazers come to Omaha guided by first-year coach Jerod Haase, who replaced Mike Davis after spending the past 13 seasons working under Roy Williams at North Carolina and Kansas.

Preseason All-American and the coach's son, Doug McDermott, scored 27 points against the Blazers last season. The junior forward notched his 37th straight game in double figures with 21 points and 11 rebounds Friday.

The Bluejays eased their coach's concerns by shooting 50.0 percent (24 of 48) and holding North Texas to 31.9 from the field, including 2 of 16 from 3-point range.

"That's going to be a big part of who we are this season: devise our game plan and execute from that," Greg McDermott told the Bluejays' official website.

The Bluejays also hope that effort is the beginning of good things to come after ranking 222nd last season in defensive field goal percentage at 44.1.

"Everybody has been talking about their defense,'' first-year North Texas coach Tony Benford said. "They did a great job on us inside, really packing it in and making it difficult for us to get in the paint.''

Creighton will take that same approach into Wednesday's contest against Haase, who should be familiar with his opponent from last season when he was on the Tar Heels' sideline for their 87-73 victory over the Bluejays in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

Haase and the Blazers expect a tougher task after they rolled to 105-59 season-opening win over Division II Young Harris on Saturday. Jordan Swing and Robert Williams each scored 17 points as UAB shot 53.6 percent and 11 of 21 from 3-point range.

Swing averaged 11.2 points last season and had 14 versus Creighton. Senior Jekore Tyler had 15 on Saturday and finished with 14 against the Bluejays.

UAB has dropped 19 straight road games against Top 25 teams since a 65-52 win at No. 20 Marquette on Jan. 7, 1998. Creighton, meanwhile, has not lost at home in the regular season to an unranked, non-conference opponent since a 64-58 defeat to Drexel on Feb. 17, 2007.

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