Omaha, NE (SportsNetwork.com) - The 12th-ranked Creighton Bluejays begin the second half of their Big East slate on Friday evening, as they welcome the DePaul Blue Demons to the CenturyLink Center Omaha for a conference showdown.
Creighton's first season in the Big East has been a rousing success, as the team sits tied with sixth-ranked Villanova for the conference lead at an impressive 8-1. Greg McDermott's Bluejays have won three straight and 13 of their last 14 games, including a hard-fought 63-60 decision against St. John's last week, The win over the Red Storm moved Creighton to a flawless 12-0 at home this year and improved the team's current home win streak to 14 games.
Oliver Purnell's Blue Demons are at the opposite end of the spectrum. DePaul has lost five straight games, including Monday's 71-59 home loss to Georgetown. With the loss, DePaul fell to a dismal 2-8 in conference play, tied with Butler for last place in the Big East.
DePaul owns a 15-8 series advantage against Creighton, but the Bluejays have won three straight meetings and seek the regular-season sweep after routing the Blue Demons at Allstate Arena back on Jan. 7, 81-62.
The Blue Demons were shorthanded once again in the loss to Georgetown on Monday, as leading scorer Cleveland Melvin remains sidelined due to a suspension. Still, without him, DePaul had its chances against Georgetown, leading the Hoyas at the half. A 17-7 run by Georgetown early in the second stanza provided the visitors with the room needed to go onto victory and keep DePaul spiraling downward. Brandon Young led three Blue Demons in double figures with 15 points. Billy Garrett, who missed the two prior games due to illness, added 12 points, while R.J. Curington chipped in with 10 in the loss.
DePaul has put up modest offensive numbers this season and that's even with Melvin in the lineup. The Blue Demons are netting 71.6 ppg on just .430 shooting. Melvin leads the team in both scoring (16.7 ppg) and rebounding (6.4 rpg). Depending on how long he remains sidelined, it will be up to players like Young (14.5 ppg) and Garrett (11.9 ppg) to fill the void. Tommy Hamilton (8.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg), who grabbed 10 rebounds in the loss to Georgetown, will need to expand his role as well.
Creighton is clicking on all cylinders and has had no problem offensively this year, ranking among the nation's most efficient squads, averaging 81.3 ppg, while shooting .493 overall, .432 from behind the arc, and .751 from the free- throw line. It certainly helps to have First-Team All-American Doug McDermott leading the charge. The 6-foot-8 senior is at it again, putting up gaudy numbers, averaging 25.0 ppg (second in the nation), delivering on 50 percent from the floor and 43.9 percent from long range. He also finds time to lead the team in rebounding (7.1 rpg). Fellow forward Ethan Wragge (12.0 ppg) is a lethal gunner, shooting just under 50 percent from behind the arc with a team- best 78 3-pointers to his credit.
It was once again McDermott leading the way in the win over St. John's last time out, as his 3-pointer with under three seconds remaining earned the Bluejays the victory. McDermott finished the game with 39 points and in the process moved into 18th place in NCAA history with 2,741 career points. No other player came close to joining McDermott in double figures in the win, with Austin Chapman coming in second on the team with just seven points.