As Creighton prepares for its first Big East women’s basketball game, the Bluejays are more concerned about establishing some consistency than making history.
Creighton will take a 6-6 record into Saturday’s 2:05 p.m. game against Villanova at Sokol Arena, marking the Bluejays’ long-awaited debut in the new conference.
“Everyone has been talking about this for so long, and it’s exciting to have the opportunity to play in this game,” Creighton forward Sarah Nelson said. “It’s going to be interesting 20 or 30 years down the road that I’ll be able to say I played when we played in the Big East for the first time.”
Given the ups and downs during Bluejays’ nonconference play, Nelson and her teammates have to be focused on seizing the moment rather than looking too far into the future.
“We need to step up and become a consistent team,” Nelson said. “We can’t afford to be a really great team one night and an average team another night.”
The Bluejays have been all over the map with their performances in nonconference games. They’ve dropped lopsided decisions to the two nationally ranked teams in Oklahoma and Nebraska. They lost their opening game to a team from their old conference (Drake).
They’ve won four of their five home games, with the lone loss coming by a point against BYU. They won two of three games last week in a tournament in Las Vegas, with their efforts in the first two contests against Oregon State and Clemson underscoring the inconsistency of their play.
“The Oregon State game is one of the best, if not the best, games we’ve played,” coach Jim Flanery said. “The next game was about as poorly as we’ve played this season.
“Our kids understand that if we prepare the right way and we have the right mindset, we can beat good teams. I’ve challenged our kids to be more consistent.”
Creighton will try to do that against a Villanova team that has won nine of its 10 games. The Wildcats are 5-0 in road games and also have won three neutral-site contests.
Villanova’s ability to take care of the ball has figured into its strong start. The Wildcats have committed 92 turnovers in the 10 games. They’ve also gotten balanced scoring, with four players averaging 10 points or more per game.
“This is going to be a challenge because nothing will come easily,” Flanery said. “They know how they want to play and they play pretty well in that style. Every coach we’ve talked to says Villanova is a very difficult team to prepare for as they do some very unorthodox things.
“They have versatile bigs, and they’re going to put five players that can make 3s on the floor. You don’t see that that often in women’s basketball.”
Nor do most teams protect the basketball as zealously as do the Wildcats.
“Nine turnovers a game in women’s basketball is ridiculously low,” Flanery said.
One of the bright spots Flanery saw in his team’s tournament performance was the ability to get to the foul line. The Bluejays shot more free throws than Oregon State and UNLV, which they defeated in their final game.
That was a positive sign, he said, because Creighton has tended to rely on too many 3-point shots. The Bluejays are shooting 27.8 percent from beyond the arc.
“With the way the game is being called, we haven’t gotten to the line as much as we’ve needed to,” Flanery said. “We haven’t thrown it inside as much as we need to or attacked the basket.
“We probably fell in love with our identity as a 3-point shooting team, and we haven’t been that team.”