A dominant second quarter helped Creighton seize control of its exhibition game Monday, and the Jays finished off their Australian tour with a 107-79 victory over the Brisbane Bullets’ invitational squad.
CU scored the first 20 points in the opening five minutes of the second quarter, capitalizing on sloppy ball-handling by its opponent. Brisbane turned the ball over six times during that stretch, which allowed Creighton to carve up the Bullets’ defense as it scrambled to get set.
The Jays, who trailed 28-24 after the first period, made six of their first seven shots during that surge — three of which were 3-pointers.
Their lead dipped to 72-65 late in the third quarter, but sophomore Christian Bishop’s two-handed dunk and freshman Shereef Mitchell’s driving layup stretched CU’s advantage back to double digits. Junior Ty-Shon Alexander began the fourth with a step-back 3-pointer, and the Jays cruised from there.
“We got better every game,” CU coach Greg McDermott said during a video interview after the win. “It’s a good building block as we move into the start of practice at the end of September. Just an invaluable experience for our new guys.”
Monday’s win secured a 2-1 record for Creighton on its foreign tour. The Jays lost their first game to the Australian Centre of Excellence, a prep school that attracts the nation’s top talent. But CU rallied from 29 points down to defeat the Cairns Taipans, who had about half of their NBL roster available.
Then came the matchup against the Brisbane Bullets, who also compete in the top-flight NBL in Australia — although they did not suit up their best players against Creighton.
Brisbane still had a considerable height advantage inside, but the speed and agility of the Jays’ guards caused all sorts of problems for the Bullets.
Creighton was credited with 18 steals. It finished with a 41-9 edge in points off turnovers. All 11 of the available CU players scored.
“We’ve got more depth, so we can extend (on defense) more than we have in the past,” Creighton assistant to the head coach Steve Merfeld said during a postgame interview on the webcast. “When we defend like that and get a lot of easy opportunities in transition, it opens up the floor for our shooters, and we did a good job of making the extra pass.”
Below are five additional observations from Creighton’s final game in Australia:
- The 6-foot-7 Bishop, often able to use his quickness to find routes to the bucket against bigger defenders, was a constant threat Monday. He beat his man down the floor to score in transition. He converted on the block. He caught a lob on an in-bounds pass and finished with a two-handed dunk just before the first-quarter buzzer. He scored a team-high 25 points.
But he left his mark in other ways, too. Bishop picked up six rebounds, three steals and a block. He found a couple of cutting guards and delivered well-timed bounce passes for baskets. There was also a play where he reacted faster than everyone else and dived on the floor for a loose ball to secure possession for CU.
The injury concern at the center position will likely be a question that lingers throughout next season. Jacob Epperson and Kelvin Jones both did not play in Australia. But Bishop can be productive in that role. He showed that Monday.
- Senior Davion Mintz’s improved ability to read the defense as he maneuvers around ball screens stood out at times Monday. In the first half, he attacked downhill and finished with a floater, recognizing that the rolling big man was covered. Late in the third quarter, Mintz dribbled left, bounced the ball between his legs and abruptly fired a dart with his right hand to find Bishop for a dunk. Mintz dished out seven assists.
- Creighton had 11 shots blocked Monday. That’s notable because the Jays have placed an emphasis this offseason on becoming better finishers at the rim. CU won’t ever operate with a size disadvantage as severe as Monday’s game once its big men get healthy, but it’ll still have to find ways to be more efficient in the paint. Whether that’s just identifying the help defender, muscling through contact, using a two-foot jump stop or leaping off the opposite foot, Creighton likely has to find ways to be craftier inside.
- The second quarter did not end well for sophomore Antwann Jones. He threw away an in-bounds pass, then dribbled off his foot and committed a foul with less than a second on the clock. But he didn’t let those mistakes define his day. The Memphis transfer finished with six points, a team-high eight rebounds, four assists and five steals. He’ll sit out next season, but he showcased flashes of his stat-sheet-stuffing potential in Australia.
- Junior Mitch Ballock capped off a strong foreign tour with arguably his best game Monday. He buried six 3-pointers and recorded three assists. He was instrumental in both of Creighton’s monster runs — 20-0 to open the second quarter and 10-2 to begin the second half.
Ballock led the team in scoring during the three games in Australia (18.3 points). He attempted an average of 10 3-pointers per contest (and made 46.7% of them). He’s spent the summer working to find new ways to score — whether that’s attacking off the dribble or creating space along the 3-point line. He showed some of that improvement in Australia.