Creighton senior Jade Owens dribbled toward the hoop, absorbed contact as she guided a layup through the net, crashed to the floor and slid headfirst into the padding of the basket stanchion.
Then she smiled. Big. One of those mouth-agape, joy-filled, this-is-awesome type of smiles.
Certainly Owens’ emotion was influenced by the immediate significance of that play — her bucket at the end of the third quarter gave the Jays the lead for good in a Feb. 10 win over Seton Hall that snapped their five-game losing streak.
But deep down, Owens had something else on her mind. She always does. Because once you’ve spent two years sidelined with injury, uncertain if you’ll ever get to play again — after two hip surgeries, a hip dislocation and a knee surgery — you tend to appreciate all of a game’s moments. Especially the highlight-worthy ones.
“Every time I step out there, I’m kind of thinking, this could be my last time,” Owens said. “So I’m having fun. Smiling, laughing with my teammates. I’m just really focused on taking it in, day by day.”
She and the Jays (13-14, 7-9) definitely hope to keep enjoying themselves well into March.
But they have work to do.
CU hosts No. 13 Marquette and DePaul in the regular season’s final two games this weekend. Creighton could put itself in position to earn a WNIT berth by winning both contests. It could also keep itself out of the play-in round of the Big East tournament — CU’s tied for sixth place. The league’s automatic NCAA bid will be up for grabs next week.
The Bluejays have shown some glimpses of improvement lately, too. Owens seems to have spearheaded that.
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The veteran point guard from River Forest, Illinois, finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals against Seton Hall. She scored 11 points, including a key 3-pointer late, and grabbed eight rebounds in a victory at Xavier. She buried three 3-pointers at Providence.
Owens’ impact is felt beyond the stat sheet as well, according to senior Audrey Faber.
“I think she just brings confidence to everyone,” Faber said. “She’s the first one to get someone back up after they miss a shot or turn the ball over. I think that combination of poise and confidence that she brings is really good for our team.”
Owens wouldn’t have it any other way.
She’s energized each time she takes the court. She wants her teammates feeling those same vibes.
After all, it wasn’t so long ago that doctors were advising her to give up the game. But here she is, set to start her own senior day game on Sunday, playing some of the best basketball of her career as the Jays navigate through the season’s stretch run.
“It’s kind of wild to me because right now I am starting to get adjusted back to playing — which is unfortunate because now, everything’s winding down,” Owens said. “You wish you could have that time back, but you can’t. So you try to make the most of what you do have left.”