There were stretches in Saturday night’s game against the Houston women when Creighton’s best defense was the Cougars’ offense.
Houston showed no hesitancy in putting up plenty of high-risk shots and little accuracy in making them. Combine that with the Bluejays’ workmanlike effort when they had the ball, and the result was a 65-55 victory before 981 at D.J. Sokol Arena.
The Cougars shot 38 percent from the field, but only because they made five of their last six shots — four being 3-point attempts — that trimmed what had been a 22-point deficit to the final margin. Jessieka Palmer scored eight of her team-high 12 points in the final 3:20 to lead the late surge.
“We got lucky they didn’t make some of those shots they made late, early in the game,” Creighton coach Jim Flanery said. “They’re hard to guard because they take a lot of tough shots. If they make them, there’s not a lot you can say to your kids.
“It they miss them, you can’t really say good defense.”
Overall, Flanery came away from the win feeling more like the Bluejays (3-2) had tread water rather than taken a step forward.
“I didn’t like our intensity over 40 minutes as much as I had in our last three games,” he said. “Part of it was maybe we played to the score a little bit more than we should have.”
Creighton never trailed and was ahead by 10 points before the game was seven minutes old. The Bluejays led 29-19 at halftime, then opened the second half with a 14-3 blitz that featured McKenzie Fujan scoring 10 of her game-high 16 points in a span of 6:11.
Fujan made 7 of 13 shots, including a pair of 3-point baskets, in recording a season-high scoring total. Freshman Brianna Rollerson added a career-high 10 points, and Creighton got points from nine of its 10 players.
All 10 grabbed at least one rebound while eight of the 10 recorded at least one assist.
“That’s what we strive for,” Fujan said. “We like it when we’re playing together.”
Forward Sarah Nelson also liked the balance Creighton displayed.
“Mac had a great night, but it was never like we felt we had to get the ball to McKenzie,” Nelson said. “It’s always comforting to know that the game is not just riding on one person. People were stepping up and we were making good plays.”
Unlike her coach, Nelson felt the Bluejays made some type of progress in handing Houston its fourth loss in five games.
“I would say every game is a step forward, whether it’s a giant step or a small step,” said Nelson, who finished with seven points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. “There were stretches where we had a lot of turnovers.
“I think we did a good job of scoring, and with nine people scoring, it helps build confidence. This might not have been the best game, but they challenged us in ways we don’t always see in practice.”
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Video: Creighton-Houston game highlights:
Video: Creighton-Houston postgame press conference: