A victory isn't all Creighton has its sights set on Tuesday night when the Bluejays play their first game in nine days.
The start of Big East play is two weeks away, and they hope to use their next three home games — Tuesday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Sunday against California and Dec. 28 against Chicago State — to build momentum.
“We've been talking about playing with an edge and being dialed into what we need to do,'' senior Grant Gibbs said. “It's important to start conference play on a high note and be playing good basketball.
“This is an important three-game stretch, and hopefully we can play well.''
Just getting a chance to play again has the 7-2 Bluejays excited. They did not play last week because of final exams, and Tuesday's game against the Golden Lions will be their first since hammering Nebraska on Dec. 8.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott said he would have preferred playing Saturday or Sunday, but other scheduling commitments prevented Arkansas-Pine Bluff from coming to Omaha over the weekend.
“Things just couldn't be worked out,'' McDermott said.
Creighton practiced all but two of the past eight days, and McDermott was particularly pleased with the players' effort the past two days. Like any coach coming off a long break, McDermott is concerned about rust against the 2-7 Golden Lions.
Gibbs and teammate Avery Dingman downplayed that possibility.
“With some teams, there might be some concerns about that,'' Dingman said. “But we're an older team and, with the way we play, we're a disciplined team. We've had a lot of good practices in which we've tried to simulate game situations, so I don't think the break will have an impact.''
Dingman, who sees most of his action as Gibbs' backup at small forward, is averaging 13 minutes, 2.4 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. Although his numbers aren't jaw-droppers, Dingman has been encouraged about his contributions in the first nine games.
“I feel like I'm playing a lot better defensively this year,'' he said. “Coming into college, I was clueless about defense.
“I think I could be making a little more of an impact offensively, and I should be getting to the glass a little more. With my size and athleticism, I should be pulling down a lot more rebounds than I have been. Those are two things I feel I could do more of heading into conference play.''
Arkansas-Pine Bluff comes to Omaha on a seven-game losing streak. The Golden Lions, who were picked to finish third in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, have played just one home game this season.
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In fact, they won't play at home again until Jan. 18 as 14 of their first 15 games will be on the road.
McDermott said Arkansas-Pine Bluff does present a challenge — it plays primarily a zone defense. The Golden Lions have been active defensively out of that zone, forcing an average of 18 turnovers per game.
“They turn a lot of those into easy baskets,'' McDermott said.
But Arkansas-Pine Bluff has had difficulty scoring, averaging 61.4 points per game while averaging 18 turnovers themselves.
“We need to get off to a good start against them,'' Gibbs said. “This long break has been good for us. It's allowed some guys to rest up a little bit, and it's allowed us to work on some things that can help us get better.
“But it feels good to finally have a game again.''
Notes: This will be Creighton's fourth meeting but first since 2008 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Bluejays have won all four games by an average of 31 points. … Senior forward Doug McDermott has averaged 23.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in 80 games since the start of his sophomore season. He is the only college player in the nation to average at least 23 points and seven rebounds in that span. … McDermott has been almost a point-a-minute scorer at home this season. He has scored 123 points in 124 minutes in four home games. … McDermott needs 56 points to reach 2,500 for his career. … Gibbs needs three assists to pass Tyler McKinney for fifth on Creighton's all-time chart.