LAS VEGAS — Creighton squandered a 19-point first-half lead against last year’s national runner-up. And that was 24 hours after the Bluejays’ 31-point loss to San Diego State in their opener at the Las Vegas Invitational.
Creighton also led No. 12 Texas Tech 74-66 with 2:45 left in regulation only to see the Red Raiders finish the second half on an 8-0 run to force overtime. But the Jays didn’t panic.
They responded with a 9-2 run in the extra period en route to an 83-76 win in the tournament’s consolation game. Creighton (5-2) scored the first six points in the extra period — going ahead 80-74 on a mid-range jumper from sophomore Marcus Zegarowski, who finished with a career-high 32 points.
“We’re some fighters,” Zegarowski said during a postgame radio interview.
A hustling Christian Bishop added a steal, grabbed four rebounds and guided in a putback during overtime.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my team for the resolve that they showed,” coach Greg McDermott said during his radio interview. “With Texas Tech ... it’s important that you let them know, ‘We’re here and we’re in the fight.’ I thought our guys did that from the jump, and then I thought they did it to start overtime.”
It was Zegarowski who made the first play in the extra period, driving to the rim for a layup to give Creighton a 78-76 lead. Then Bishop followed a Ty-Shon Alexander miss with a putback. Zegarowski darted into the paint and faded away for a jumper on the next possession to put Creighton in front 80-74 with just less than three minutes left.
The Jays missed their next four shots. But three came on the same clock-draining possession, thanks to two offensive rebounds. Alexander, who scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, knocked down three free throws to clinch it.
Creighton probably should have won the game well before overtime, though.
The Jays made 16 of 26 shots before halftime, including eight 3-pointers. Zegarowski and Alexander combined for 33 points in the first half on 11-of-14 shooting.
But Tech switched its defense after the break — Zegarowski said the Raiders showed zone to start a possession but often switched to man-to-man once Creighton dribbled inside the arc. Creighton had about a nine-minute stretch in which it managed one field goal.
Texas Tech roared back, twice tying the game midway through the second half. Senior Chris Clarke, who had 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, missed two free throws that would have given his team a lead with about eight minutes left.
Creighton eventually jumped in front 74-66 with 2:45 left in regulation on junior Mitch Ballock’s short jumper in the lane. That capped a 10-2 run, which included a tiebreaking jumper by freshman Shereef Mitchell and an alley-oop dunk for Bishop.
But after Zegarowski missed a 3-pointer, the Jays didn’t attempt a shot on their next four trips down the floor — including the final possession when they had a chance to win with the game tied 74-74. McDermott said he liked the matchups on the floor late and didn’t want to call timeouts to allow the Red Raiders to make defensive substitutions.
Creighton’s playmakers weren’t able to deliver then. Texas Tech capitalized on the miscues with an 8-0 run to force overtime. But the Jays found a way to win after that.
“The guys had the guts to suck it up and get it done in overtime,” McDermott said.
Meet the 2019-20 Creighton men's basketball team
Get the headlines from Creighton, Nebraska, UNO, high schools and other area teams.
Throughout the year, The World-Herald captures breathtaking shots of your favorite local athletics teams and their fans, freezing in time the moments that stick with you for a lifetime. Click here to see commemorative pages.