Blog: Taking it easy is plan to keep Tritz on court
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Carli Tritz sees the carryover impact of Creighton's trip to the NCAA tournament last March on the faces of her teammates.
In the past, talk about a tough opening schedule and the mention of playing a national power such as Notre Dame would lead to some nervous glances around the locker room.
Now, when coach Jim Flanery talks about getting ready for the opener against Big 12 power Oklahoma, Tritz sees confidence, not apprehension, from her teammates.
“In the past, talking about playing a Notre Dame would be how it would be a learning process game,” Tritz said. “But that's not the way it is this year. When he talks about playing tough teams, we love it. We're ready for the challenge.
“I'm excited to be playing Oklahoma, and I feel they should be nervous about playing us because we're a good mid-major that could upset them. We got a huge bump from last year in just how our team thinks. If you can get a team buying in and believing, there's nothing it can't do. That's where we are right now.”
Creighton returns 10 of the 11 players who saw action last season on the team that rode a late surge to a Missouri Valley tournament championship and the Bluejays' first berth in the NCAA tournament in a decade.
The only starter not returning from the group that won 20 games is DaNae Moore, a defensive specialist who averaged 4.5 points a game. The Bluejays also will be without sophomore Taylor Johnson, who tore a knee ligament in July after finishing as the team's fourth-leading scorer with a 5.0 average.
Tritz, an All-Missouri Valley pick, averaged 14.4 points and also led the team in assists, steals and turnovers. The junior guard will team with junior forward Sarah Nelson (12.4 points, team-high 7.6 rebounds) to give the Bluejays a dynamic pair to build the offense around.
Ally Jensen and McKenzie Fujan also are returning starters, but what has excited Flanery in the team's first eight practices is the fact that no one or two players have dominated the drills.
“It hasn't been a case where the same two or three people have stood out,” Flanery said. “Sarah has probably been the most dominant player so far, but the people we've needed to see improvement in have improved.
“The first two or three practices are always going to be sloppy, but you're just trying to get kids to go hard and compete. You're still going to have some ugly practices during the year, but the goal is to get to the point where they're not quite as ugly.”
The Creighton women will take part in Friday's Bluejay Madness at D.J. Sokol Arena. Unlike the men's team, which will participate in the event an hour after completing its first practice, the women have been practicing since Oct. 1.
NCAA rules allow women's teams to participate in 30 preseason practices in the 40 days preceding their opening game. The Bluejays begin the season Nov. 10 with a home game against Oklahoma, which won 21 games and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Sooners lost to St. John's, which needed a last-second shot to eliminate Creighton in the first round.
Five of Creighton's first six opponents are coming off NCAA appearances. In addition to facing the Sooners, the Bluejays will play power-conference opponents in Kansas, Nebraska, South Florida and Minnesota. Brigham Young and Houston also are on the schedule.
Known for cobbling together difficult nonconference schedules, Flanery relishes the early-season challenges. He believes his players do, too.
“The players have looked at the early schedule and know they better be good or else we're going to be told really early that we're not,” Flanery said. “It's going to be hard, especially early.
“One thing we talked about is not to forget how hard it was to get to where we got last year. They understand all the little things that go into that. They get that.”
» NOTES: Johnson finished as Creighton's third-leading 3-point threat last season, making 32 shots from beyond the arc. Flanery said it will take her about nine months to recover from the surgery to repair not only the torn ligament but cartilage damage. “Even if she was on a six-month schedule, we probably wouldn't have taken the chance,” Flanery said. “We would have redshirted her.” … Riley Norman's career has ended without her having played a game for Creighton. The 6-foot forward from Des Moines suffered knee injuries before each of the past two seasons and has been told that she must give up basketball. Flanery said Norman will continue to help the team in a managerial role.
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