Creighton's bench strength overpowered Indiana State to keep the Bluejays perfect in the Missouri Valley Conference women's basketball race.
Jordan Garrison and Marissa Janning combined for 27 points as Creighton's reserves outscored their counterparts by 19 and the Bluejays rolled to a 69-50 win in front of 939 at Sokol Arena.
“Our second group always comes in and gives us a spark,” Creighton guard Carli Tritz said. “They do a good job of pushing us in practice, and they make us better.”
The win improved Creighton to 12-3 and 4-0 in the Valley. Indiana State, playing without leading scorer Anna Munn (knee injury), dropped to 10-5 and 2-2.
The Sycamores trailed by 30 points with 12 minutes to play and scored as many points in the final 11:44 as they had in the first 28:16. The Bluejays' backups contributed heavily to building that big bulge, scoring 34 of Creighton's first 55 points.
“If somebody is not having a good night, we're capable of filling that spot with someone off the bench,” said Janning, who scored 13 points. “We can go five-on, five-off with any team we play. We're solid all around.”
Garrison led the Bluejays with 14 points. She and Janning each made three 3-pointers and were 5 of 11 from the field. Overall, Creighton's reserves outscored Indiana State's bench players 38-19.
That left Creighton with a 380-216 advantage in bench production this season. The reserves are averaging 25.3 points per game for a team that is scoring 66.7 per contest.
“All of the bench players have embraced their roles,” Garrison said. “If the game is a little slow, we have to use our defensive pressure to get the pace up. We do what we can to contribute in order for us to be the team we want to be at the end of the season.”
No player exemplifies that dedication to her role more than Janning. After a rough start, the Bluejays' prized freshman has scored in double figures in 10 of the past 11 games.
She has boosted her scoring average to 11.9, second-best on the team. Janning has averaged a team-high 15.0 points in Creighton's four conference games, and she leads the team with 33 3-pointers while shooting 45.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Some players, given those numbers, would be chirping about not starting. Not Janning.
“It doesn't matter to me whether I start or not,” she said. “What we're doing right now is working and I wouldn't change a thing.”
Creighton coach Jim Flanery has resisted any urge to put Janning in the starting lineup. He said her minutes — she's averaging about 25 per game — wouldn't change if she was part of the first rotation.
Flanery is satisfied with the production he's getting from Janning, especially considering her rocky start. Janning missed her first 13 shots and was 3 of 25 (12.0 percent) from the field after four games.
“We all thought she was going to be a really good player,” Flanery said. “After those first few games, we're thinking what can we reasonably expect from her. All of a sudden, she's a completely different player.
“I talked to her after the first few games and told her that she was good enough that she was going to help us. She just needed one or two good games to get her confidence to where it could be.”
Janning scored 19 points in Creighton's overtime victory against BYU on Nov. 28. She followed that with another 19 points in the Bluejays' upset of Nebraska.
Janning looks back on those first four games almost as if they happened in a different season. In her last 11 outings, she's averaging 15.2 points and shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 47.2 percent from 3-point range.
“It's been like night and day,” Janning said. “I'm happy that those four games did happen. It made me realize that I can do better than that. I just needed a little bit of confidence.
“It made me realize that I needed to work harder. Coming in, I was working hard but I've been getting extra shots up and I've been lifting a lot more. I knew I needed to get bigger, stronger and faster so I could have more confidence.”
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