The Creighton women’s basketball team found itself in a familiar place at halftime after buidling a 36-22 lead over Minnesota.
The Bluejays had a 38-23 halftime lead over the Golden Gophers last season in Minneapolis. But Creighton ended up coughing up a 20-point advantage that day on the way to an 88-81 loss in double-overtime.
Sarah Nelson made sure the lead stuck this time, scoring 22 points to help the Jays upend Minnesota 63-52 in front of a D.J. Sokol Arena crowd of 802.
“It was kind of one of those things like it was déjà vu, like we were sitting in the same place last year,” said Nelson, who also had seven rebounds and seven assists. “And we all were kind of feeling really good about it, and then it totally flipped on us, and we were just not going to let that happen again.”
In order for that to not happen again, the Jays would have to contain preseason All-Big Ten first team guard Rachel Banham, who scorched Creighton for 39 points last season.
This time around, the Bluejays limited Banham to 14 points.
“We really spoke how we weren’t going to let Banham go off on us, and that was our main focus,” Nelson said.
The 6-foot Nelson also had a tall order defensively in guarding 6-5 freshman center Amanda Zahui B., who scored 29 points in her debut against Charlotte on Wednesday.
“We talked a lot about how they could hurt us inside just with their size and things like that,” Nelson said.
Zahui was forced to the bench early when she picked up her second foul with 13:28 left in the first half and was held to 14 points.
The Bluejays had plenty of help from Minnesota as the Gophers committed 22 turnovers compared to just seven CU miscues.
Creighton coach Jim Flanery said the Jays’ defensive pressure added to the Gopher confusion on offense and helped create those turnovers.
“Minnesota looked really good on film, and I thought we did a lot of things defensively to make them look more human,” Flanery said.
“Just how we really collapsed on the post in the first half and made them turnover-prone, and that was the difference.”
Minnesota coach Pam Borton said the 15 first-half turnovers by the Gophers and the loss of Zahui to foul trouble were too much for her team to overcome.
“I thought we had a lot of self-inflicted wounds in the first half with some of our passing,” Borton said.
“Obviously with Amanda going on the bench for most of the first half really hurt as well and put a lot more pressure on our guards.”
Minnesota native Marissa Janning and Alexis Akin-Otiko each scored 10 points to help the Bluejays.
The Jays have a quick turnaround as they will face Kansas at 4 p.m. Sunday in Lawrence before returning home to take on Houston next Saturday.
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Video: Highlights from the Creighton-Minnesota game:
Video: Creighton coach Jim Flanery after the Minnesota game: