Creighton-Nebraska notes: Loud Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd does not disappoint

Creighton’s inability to grab a defensive rebound foiled its attempts to pull within single digits and put some pressure on the Huskers after halftime.

LINCOLN — Most of Creighton’s players hadn’t experienced Pinnacle Bank Arena before, but they knew the environment would be wild Saturday.

The venue definitely met their expectations.

The young Jays’ first exposure to Nebraska’s home crowd happened to be on a day when Husker fans produced one of the best atmospheres in recent NU hoops history.

The noise reached deafening levels throughout Nebraska’s 94-75 win Saturday, even when there wasn’t anything on the court to cheer about.

“I remember one timeout, my ears starting ringing,” CU junior Davion Mintz said. “I’m trying to tell everybody to calm down but I can’t even hear myself talk. They brought a really good crowd today.”

Nebraska announced that Saturday’s crowd of 15,950 was the sixth-largest in its Pinnacle Bank Arena history and the second-biggest for a non-conference matchup.

Senior James Palmer said the fans brought their ‘A’ game.

“This might be one of the best crowds I’ve played in front of,” Palmer said. “Since I’ve been here, this has been one of the best.”

Comeback goes by the boards

Creighton’s inability to grab a defensive rebound foiled its attempts to pull within single digits and put some pressure on the Huskers after halftime.

Nebraska scored on 11 of its first 15 possessions after the break — it secured offensive rebounds on three of its six missed shots during that stretch. A putback dunk by senior Isaac Copeland extended NU’s lead to 72-56, forcing a Creighton timeout.

NU finished the game with 11 offensive rebounds and 19 second-chance points.

“We just didn’t get the defensive rebound when we needed to,” CU sophomore Mitch Ballock said.

On the year, the Bluejays have produced just a 67.7 defensive rebounding percentage. That ranks 285th nationally, according to Ken Pomeroy’s data.

CU had the 29th-best defensive rebounding percentage in the country last year at 75.4.

Allen shines against Bluejays

Nebraska sophomore Thomas Allen scored a career-high 18 points, and it’s a performance that you better get used to.

That was Palmer’s assessment, anyway.

He watched Saturday as Allen drove into the lane for his first three buckets — the last of which extended NU’s lead to 18-10. Allen hit a 3-pointer and converted another layup in transition. He led the team with 13 first-half points.

“First of all, I think the best is yet to come for Thomas,” Palmer said. “(Saturday) was just a stepping point in helping us get that win and we always preaching to him to be more aggressive.”

NU students poke fun at CU

More than an hour before Saturday ’s Nebraska-Creighton game, Husker students had filled the center-court Red Zone section. Only a few blue shirts had invaded the most-coveted real estate inside Pinnacle Bank Arena.

To the three dudes in suits at the southeast tunnel of the arena, that was a few too many.

NU students Jacob Sullivan, Cameron Collier and Sam Wiegand dressed as FBI agents. They wore sunglasses and ear pieces. Wiegand’s blond hair stuck straight out, like he’d pulled an all-nighter.

The trio of Husker fans were there to make sure Creighton fans — and specifically coach Greg McDermott — were reminded as often as possible of the Bluejays’ link to an FBI investigation into college basketball.

Creighton was implicated in a recent federal trial by the father of basketball player Brian Bowen. He testified that a basketball agent told him Creighton offered to give the Bowen family $100,000 and a job had Bowen signed with the Jays. Creighton, in a statement, said it had done its own thorough review and took the allegations “very seriously.”

Husker fans on Saturday took the opportunity to poke fun.

“We’ve got checks for $100,000 for an average basketball player,” Sullivan said. Indeed, the NU student section had a check.

Before the game, the three were trying — mostly in jest — to keep CU fans from sitting in the center-court student section.

“If you’re wearing blue, you have to sit in those stands,” Sullivan said. “If your (Husker) friends want to come with you, that’s fine, but you can’t sit over here.”

Eventually, after a minute of guff, the Creighton fan was allowed through.

“I guess he’s not going to follow protocol,” Wiegand joked.

Collier was surprised more Creighton fans didn’t try to make it in the arena.

“I think NU is a great place for opposing fans to come because we treat them so well,” Collier said.

Except today?

“Except today,” Collier said.

Bits and pieces

» Nebraska’s 19-point win Saturday was its largest margin of victory in this NU-CU series since a 71-52 victory in 1997.

» The six 3-pointers marked a career high for Palmer. He became the second player in as many games to make six from deep against Creighton (Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell was 6 of 17 behind the arc in a 103-92 win on Dec. 1).

» NU played Saturday’s game without freshman guard Amir Harris (strep throat). The timetable for his recovery is unclear.

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Chris Heady covers Husker football and is the Nebraska men's basketball beat writer. He started at The World-Herald in 2017. Follow him on Twitter @heady_chris. Email: chris.heady@owh.com.

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