Strength vs. strength: Potent Creighton attack to test stingy Husker defense

Mitch Ballock and his Creighton teammates are shooting 45.8 percent on 3s, second nationally. Nebraska ranks 12th in 3-point defense (26.1 percent).

There’s no secret how Creighton plans to take down Nebraska on Saturday.

The Bluejays want to run. They want to shoot 3s.

But they know they’re going up against a defensive-minded team built to constrict and disrupt even the most explosive offenses. The Huskers have proven this season that they can handle fast-break threats and they can take away the 3.

That’s what makes Saturday’s matchup so compelling.

“Something’s got to give,” CU coach Greg McDermott said. “We’ll just try to get into a flow and see what happens.”

The statistics suggest that neither team has faced a challenge like the one it will meet Saturday.

The Jays are the 11th most efficient offense when attempting shots in transition — they’ve produced a 68.3 effective field goal percentage in those situations, according to Hoop-Math.com. But NU?

It’s holding opponents to a 37.3 effective field goal percentage on their quick shots (fourth nationally).

At the 3-point line, Creighton is second nationally (45.8 percent). But Nebraska’s 12th in 3-point defense (26.1). CU’s made at least nine 3s in all eight of its games while NU’s not allowed more than seven 3-pointers in any of its nine outings.

It’s strength on strength. And both teams are confident in what they do best.

They know a test is coming, though.

“You have to make adjustments,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “You have to be able to consider Plan A, Plan B, C, D ...”

The Huskers were ready last year. In the first half, they forced 10 Creighton turnovers, gave up just two fast-break buckets and held CU to 2 of 13 from the 3-point line. NU led 33-28 at the break.

The Jays countered and prevailed — but it took nearly the entire second half to seize control.

CU players could see a scenario where Saturday plays out similarly. Maybe it takes time to adjust to the aggressive Nebraska defense. Maybe they miss a few shots early.

Sophomore Mitch Ballock said it’ll be important for Creighton to stay committed to its brand of basketball.

“It’s just doing what we do and playing how we play,” he said. “I think that is our advantage. Our speed and our pace to the game. Hopefully we can wear them out on the defensive end and make stuff difficult for them to stop.”

During the Jays’ seven-game winning streak against Nebraska, they’ve scored an average of 74.6 points per game and made 49.5 percent of their shots. They have the potency to even exceed those numbers Saturday.

But it won’t be easy against NU, McDermott said.

“Nebraska’s elite defensively, especially at home,” he said. “It’s a very, very good defensive basketball team.”

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