MZ shot

Sophomore Marcus Zegarowski rises for a 3-point shot during a game earlier this year. Zegarowski, Ty-Shon Alexander and Mitch Ballock are all shooting better than 45% from long-range so far this season.

Marcus Zegarowski could have pulled up for the jump shot, but he sensed Mitch Ballock would be rotating over so he took a dribble to draw the defense. Then he dished to Ballock.

And indeed, Ballock was open. But instead of shooting, Ballock pump faked to shed a defender. He pumped again as another defender closed in — then tossed the ball back to Zegarowski, who drained an in-rhythm 3-pointer.

Turning down good shots for great ones.

Coach Greg McDermott was standing just a couple feet away from that Zegarowski-Ballock collaboration during Sunday’s 76-67 win over North Florida.

“To me, it’s beautiful basketball,” McDermott said.

Ballock earned the assist on a Ty-Shon Alexander 3-pointer one possession earlier as well. Also in the second half, Alexander assisted on one 3-pointer each for Zegarowski and Ballock. Zegarowski set up Ballock for a triple and then spotted Alexander behind the arc for a transition 3.

“It’s what we’ve tried to create within our program,” McDermott said. “We try to recruit guys that are unselfish by nature and then try to even grow that part of their game. They’re unselfish young people and they have confidence in one another. That’s a really good recipe.”

It's been a staple of Creighton’s offensive attack so far this season — led by these three guards who seem to take pride in their ability to play off one another, create for one another and celebrate each other’s successes.

Here’s the trio’s scoring numbers through five games:

Zegarowski: 18.0 points per game, 17 of 34 from 3-point range (50.0%)

Alexander: 17.4 points per game, 15 of 28 from 3-point range (53.6%)

Ballock: 13.8 points per game, 15 of 32 from 3-point range (46.9%)

Creighton's the only Division I school with three players ranked in the top 50 nationally in 3-point shooting percentage. The three have also combined to shoot 80.6% from the free-throw line. Their combined assist-to-turnover rate is 2.45.

Zegarowski credited the coaches for instilling them with confidence. Ballock said they’ve done a good job of playing to each other’s strengths. Alexander said there’s a trust that’s formed within the group.

“Us three, we just do a great job, as the leaders on the team, making sure that we share the ball with each other and other people,” Alexander said. “We’ve just got to make sure we keep on doing that.”

Other notes from Creighton’s 76-67 win Sunday:

» In the first half, the Jays gave up eight offensive rebounds. North Florida held a 12-2 edge in second-chance points. … But things changed after halftime. CU pulled down seven offensive rebounds, producing a 16-1 advantage in second-chance points.

» Creighton went to its five-guard lineup for two different stretches in the second half, and seemed to find good success with it. The Jays out-scored North Florida 20-13 during the 12 possessions that they played with five guards on the floor. The lineup gave CU some defensive versatility (it could switch all screens) against the Ospreys’ perimeter attack. McDermott also complimented Damien Jefferson’s effort while playing the center position.

» McDermott said the Jays, who played Friday, conducted a 40-minute practice Saturday to prepare for Sunday’s game. It was a short turnaround. But the players handled the game plan really well, according to McDermott.

» Jefferson’s now 0 of 10 from 3-point range. He’s stuck in a funk. But he shot 41.2% from long range last year and he’s making sure to get extra reps in when he can. Zegarowski indicated that the Jays know Jefferson will find his stroke again. “We see DJ working every day before and after practice,” Zegarowski said.

» Through five games, Creighton ranks 22nd nationally in turnover percentage (15.1%), according to Ken Pomeroy’s data. The Jays last year were 183rd (18.6%). It’s a major key to the season. CU has to keep limiting its ball handling mistakes.

» Senior guard Davion Mintz, who hasn’t played yet this season because of a high ankle sprain, is showing progress in his recovery, McDermott said. But there’s no clear timetable for Mintz’s return just yet.

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