Creighton delivered 20 minutes of the most delicious basketball Tuesday night that anyone in the sellout crowd of 17,602 at the CenturyLink Center could hope to see.
The No. 20 Bluejays scored 53 points on 30 first-half possessions to take the fight out of Butler and assure themselves of a 10th straight victory in an 88-60 decision over Butler.
“The first half is as good as we can play,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
At one point, Creighton (15-2, 5-0 Big East) scored on 14 straight possessions. The Bluejays made shots and passes. They disrupted Butler on the defensive end. They took a team that had shown plenty of grit against a couple of the nation’s best teams and simply dismantled it.
Star forward Doug McDermott admitted that Creighton’s level of play in the opening 20 minutes was hard to describe.
“We were clicking on all cylinders,” said McDermott, who scored 24 of his 28 points in the opening 20 minutes. “Everything seemed to be perfect out there.
“The crowd was into it, we’re making shots, we’re getting stops, guys are diving on the floor. Everything was just going right.”
While he really needed no convincing, Doug McDermott came away from the first 20 minutes even more confident of his team’s ability to hang with the nation’s elite teams.
“We can still get better on the defensive end of the floor,” he said, “but when we’re playing like we did the first half, we can play with just about anyone.
“Butler has played a really tough schedule. They came down to the wire with Villanova and Oklahoma State. We sent a statement tonight that we’re a great team, not only on offense but on the defensive end of the floor as well.”
Five of Butler’s six losses entering the game were in overtime. The Bulldogs dropped a two-point extra-session decision to Villanova, ranked sixth in this week’s poll. Butler also had dropped a 69-67 decision to Oklahoma State, which was ranked fifth when the game was played in late November and is ninth now.
Butler’s margin of defeat in its six losses combined was 26 points. The Bluejays led by 29 at halftime Tuesday, closing the first half by steamrolling the Bulldogs with a 32-6 run.
“They got it going, and when they get it going and they’re shooting the basketball at the level they shot it in the first half, they’re really hard to stop,” Butler coach Brandon Miller said. “I do think, for whatever reason, our team just didn’t have it.
“That’s the first game that I looked out and I saw our guys not have the pep in our step. We were slow to the ball, we were slow getting back on defense. We just didn’t have it, and when you play a team as good as Creighton, they make you pay for it.”
The Bluejays shot a blistering 67.7 percent from the field in the first half and made 7 of their 12 3-point attempts (58.3 percent). They cooled off after the break, failing to make a shot from beyond the arc and shooting just 43.8 percent from the field.
That left Creighton at 55.6 percent for the game. The Bluejays also finished with a 44-33 rebounding edge, committed just four turnovers and had 19 assists.
Creighton limited Butler to 35.3 percent shooting, including 27.8 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
“As proud as I was of what we did on the offensive end, I’m equally proud of our defense,” Greg McDermott said. “Our guys followed the assignments pretty well for a one-day prep.
“I didn’t see this coming. We have a lot of respect for Butler and the way they played this year. We were just exceptional tonight. We scored on 14 possessions in a row in the first half, and that doesn’t happen very often. It was incredible to be a part of that.”
The Bluejays were ahead 21-18 when Doug McDermott was fouled on a 3-point shot with 9:33 left in the half.
McDermott made the free throws, and Will Artino followed with a three-point play. After Avery Dingman scored on a hard drive to the hoop, Austin Chatman buried a 3 from the corner to expand Creighton’s lead to 32-20.
Artino made a layup between a McDermott 3-pointer and fast-break layup, and the lead ballooned to 39-20. Freshman Zach Hanson then got into the act, scoring on a pair of close-range shots. Jahenns Manigat added a steal and fast-break layup, and Ethan Wragge made his second 3-point shot of the game to double up the score at 48-24.
McDermott then closed out the half with a 3-point basket and a jumper to give his team a 53-24 lead.
“Creighton possesses a lot of weapons,” Butler star Kellen Dunham said. “They’re hard to guard.”
Dunham, averaging almost 19 points coming into the game, led the Bulldogs with 12. Khyle Marshall added 11 for Butler (10-7, 0-5).
Chatman had 10 points for the Bluejays, who got points from 10 of the 12 players who saw action. Creighton also owned lopsided advantages in most specialty statistics: 50-30 in points in the paint, 19-2 on second-chance points, 13-5 on fast-break points and 36-21 in bench scoring.
“We could have easily overlooked Butler, being 0-and-4 in the conference,” Doug McDermott said. “But we had a great shoot-around today, and it just kind of carried over into the game.
“We did a great job of being mature and playing well.”
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Video: See highlights from Creighton's win over Butler:
>> Video: See Creighton coach Greg McDermott's postgame press conference:
>> Video: See Butler coach Brandon Miller speak after the game:
>> Video: See highlights of the game from Fox Sports: