Creighton trailed Xavier by a dozen points Sunday before Devin Brooks slipped off his warmup top and got to work.
The junior guard sparked the Bluejays' initial comeback, then kept making plays that helped secure a 95-89 victory at the CenturyLink Center.
Brooks had four points and an assist in a 15-1 run that carried Creighton from a 21-8 deficit into a 23-22 lead. After the Musketeers regained the lead, Brooks put the Bluejays back in front with a three-point play, and they never trailed again.
“When I got in there, I was just trying to bring something to the table that wasn't being done in that game,” Brooks said. “We came out a little dead, so I took it upon myself to come out with an extra spark and play my hardest out there.”
Brooks scored 14 points in 26 minutes, one shy of his season high. He tacked on three rebounds and four assists but committed a season-high four turnovers against Xavier's athletic backcourt.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott liked the contributions he got from his bench players. Center Will Artino scored grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and scored four points, while Isaiah Zierden didn't score but was on the court during a couple of key stretches.
“They gave us good minutes,” McDermott said. “Obviously, Devin's ability to get to the basket when teams are trying to spread us out and take away the 3-point shots can create a lot of opportunities.”
“I thought he was a huge difference in the game this afternoon.”
Brooks, who has not started a game this season, is tied for third on the team with an 8.3 scoring average. He has scored in 10 points or more in two of his last three games after an eight-game stretch in which he did not score more than nine in any of the contests.
Xavier coach Chris Mack talked after the game about the difficulty of trying to defend a team that presents as many problems as does Creighton.
“We have a lot of options,” Brooks said. “If anyone is getting doubled, someone else is open and he will knock down a shot. If they play us straight up, they get taken to the baskets. We have a lot of weapons.”
Nerves for Dingman
Creighton guard Avery Dingman admitted he had to battle nerves in getting ready for Sunday's tip.
For the first time since high school, Dingman was in the starting lineup. He took over for Grant Gibbs, who saw a string of 86 straight starts snapped because he is out for a month with a knee injury.
“Before the game, I had the normal nerves,” Dingman said. “But after the first couple of possessions, I was fine. I thought I played well. I need to make some more shots in the future, but I thought I played well all-around.”
Dingman took three shots, making two to finish with four points. He also had four rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes. He also drew the difficult assignment of defending Xavier star Semaj Christon.
Christon scored 27 points. He made 10 of 17 shots, but several of his attempts were rushed, especially when the 6-foot-6 Dingman was on him.
“He's not really that great of a shooter, so we were backing off of him,” Dingman said. “In the second half, he just put his head down and went straight at the rim. You couldn't do much without fouling him. He was a handful.”
Dingman did the same on one memorable drive in the second half. He took a pass in the corner and roared down the baseline, finishing with a crowd-pleasing dunk. The basket hiked Creighton's lead back to 10 points with 11:06 to play, and Doug McDermott scored on the next possession to push the advantage to 12.
“I felt like dunk gave us a little bit of momentum, and then Doug got the and-one on the next possession,” Dingman said. “That was too big trips.”
Each team had some difficulty at the free-throw line. Creighton made 21 of 30 free-throw attempts (70 percent) but missed four of 8 shots during a two-minute span late in the game.
Xavier missed 9 of its 22 free-throw attempts, including the front end of four one-and-one opportunities. Those misses, combined with some difficulty in slowing Creighton's transition attack, was critical, Mack said.
“If we did a little bit better job of talking in transition and if we could have made the front end of four bonus shots, we would have gotten to the line 26 times instead of 22 times and the score might have been a little different,” Mack said.
He paused, then added, “Ifs and buts.”
Doug continues climb up scoring chart
Doug McDermott's 35 points pushed his career total to 2,616 and moved him from 36th to 28th on the NCAA's career scoring chart. Among the players he passed Sunday were Jimmer Fredette, Joe Dumars, Don MacLean, Mark Macon and Calbert Cheaney. McDermott's sixth game of 30 points or more this season came five days after he sprained the AC joint in his left shoulder. The fact that his son didn't let the injury alter his approach was encouraging, Greg McDermott said.
Doug McDermott did not practice Wednesday and Thursday and then went through limited workouts Friday and Saturday.
“But I knew if he could get it (arm) above his head that he was going to play and try to be effective,” Greg McDermott said. “I was proud of the fact that I didn't think he shied away from contact. He continued to make those tight curls and didn't favor it whatsoever.
“When he's active, he's really hard to guard. Xavier threw a lot of different things at him in terms of switching, not switching and being physical. I thought he was very efficient in what he did.”
CenturyLink crowd makes some noise
Greg McDermott also praised the enthusiasm the sellout crowd of 17,589 brought to the arena. He said the Bluejays got an assist from the crowd when they fell behind early in the game and then mounted a comeback in the first half.
“It makes a huge difference,” he said. “There were a couple of times when we miscommunicated on ball screens because our guys were next to each other and couldn't hear each other. I'd like that to be a problem every game.”
Mack was an assistant coach when Xavier made trips to Creighton in 2005 and 2006. He, too, complimented the energy the crowd brought but said it didn't play that much of a factor in the outcome.
“Don't take this the wrong way,” he said. “We have a really young team, and we knew the environment was going to be what it was. But I didn't think that rattled us — it might have energized Creighton.
“This is an impressive place to play, but I thought the difference today was Creighton's basketball players.”
Bits and pieces
Creighton trailed at home for the first time since Nov. 23 against Tulsa. Creighton entered the game with a streak of 220 minutes, 7 seconds without trailing at home, but Xavier scored the first 12 points. … The Bluejays' 13-point deficit Sunday was their largest at home the past two seasons. … Artino's eight rebounds were a season high and tied his career high. … Dingman's dunk was the second of his career. He got called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim on his first one last season.
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Video: Highlights from Creighton's win over Xavier
Video: Postgame press conference with Greg and Doug McDermott