Creighton-Nebraska

Creighton and Nebraska players were flying all over the court Saturday in a physical struggle defined by passion.

Taking stock of our sports world after returning from the “Happiest Place on Earth” — no, not Lincoln on Saturday:

Students dressing up and holding signs. Two coaches barking at each other at midcourt. Nebraska-Creighton reminded me of the old Big Eight days, with Norm and Billy and Johnny. Made my heart warm.

I thought it was great to see some attitude from Greg McDermott.

Mac is known as one of the good guys in college basketball. His press conferences are smooth and classy. Win or lose, he shakes the other coach’s hand like he’s seeing an old friend. These are not bad things.

Maybe it’s not fair, but I think Creighton under Mac has lacked some of that attitude. That edge. That fire. There’s been a lot of beautiful basketball under Mac. But college hoops is a tough game, too.

McDermott was full of fire Saturday and it’s no mystery where it came from. Tim Miles’ comments last month about “dancing with the devil” did not sit well at Creighton. And though Miles said he was not aiming it at CU, the emotions festered.

Coaches leave the coaching box all the time. Crowds are noisy. It’s how you communicate. What happened on Saturday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena wasn’t about rules. It was two coaches making statements.

McDermott: I’m not happy with your news conferences.

Miles: This is my arena and you’re not gonna do whatever you want. I’m in charge tonight.

I haven’t seen so much fun since Danny Nee cursed out Norm Stewart at midcourt during the semifinal game of the 1994 Big Eight tournament. For Nee, it was the same not-gonna-take-it-anymore effect. And his team followed his lead.

As for the brush-by postgame handshake, that was another statement, too. I’m not sure there’s going to be golf between these two for a while — unless one is hitting into the other.

But it’s a rivalry. That’s okay. And now the rivalry has more attitude, more juice. Frankly, it needed it.

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» Want to wring your hands about the loss to Minnesota? Go ahead. The win over Creighton is what mattered for Husker Hoops. It makes the nonconference season a success for Nebraska.

The Creighton game is one of two that will define this season for Miles and crew. CU is the standard of college hoops around here. The blue has owned the red.

Nebraska fans have seen wins over Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana. They needed to see something Miles had never shown them. On Saturday night they got it. And how.

Now, about that NCAA tournament win. It’s another Mount Everest. But Miles and the Huskers just scaled one. When they get to the second week in March, they will be able to draw from their accomplishment, the way they dug deep to get it, the way they had to have it. The Creighton win was easily the biggest of Miles’ era at NU, and in March we may just see how big.

» Even during the hard times this season, John Cook knew there was something great inside this young team if it could just come out at the right time. Every young team is different. It absolutely helped that there were enough vets with championship pedigree on this team. Working that chemistry is what coaches live for. That is, the great ones.

Any which way you want to do the Nebraska Huskers Mount Rushmore, John Cook is on it. Period. Paragraph.

» One of my favorite things about Husker volleyball is listening to John Baylor call the games. Besides his extreme knowledge of the sport, Baylor has this unique voice that makes each game sound like he’s doing a show on a smooth jazz station. Here’s Miles Davis for the kill!

» The Big East basketball tournament and Madison Square Garden re-upped their historic relationship. Yes, yes and yes. Jim Delany, you have the perfect spot in Indy. The Garden is the Big East. Now, Madame Commish, go get UConn back.

» The College Football Hall of Fame is better with Aaron Taylor in it. What a photo over the weekend with Taylor, Rich Glover, Will Shields, Johnny Rodgers, Tom Osborne and Bill Moos at the induction dinner in New York. Congrats, 67.

» Would love to see Taylor at the Outland Dinner on Jan. 9 in Omaha. Coach Scott Frost is set to be there, along with Osborne and Frank Solich. What a head table. Omaha will welcome another Alabama winner — defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. I’m glad somebody in college football still plays defense.

» The old Big Eight fan inside me loves the fact that Rodgers, Mike Rozier and Billy Sims show up for the Heisman Trophy ceremony every year. Love that OU suit, too, Billy.

» Mel Tucker, Georgia’s defensive coordinator, is Colorado’s head football coach. Tucker, a native of Cleveland who played on Barry Alvarez’s first Wisconsin Rose bowl team, will try to win in the Pac-12 with a hard-nosed defensive approach. That will be interesting.

» Has there been a better in-season NFL acquisition than Amari Cooper? Not saying that puts Dallas in the Super Bowl. Then again, I’ve never seen the NFL playoffs looking this wide open. I know, I know. Patrick Mahomes. If he can take down the Chiefs’ history in January, make him commissioner.

» A long time ago, Turner Gill looked like the prince who would one day ascend to Osborne’s throne. Then Bill Callahan showed up and Gill left and we wondered if Gill would ever coach. The KU thing aside, Gill proved himself a very good coach at Buffalo and Liberty. More than that, he’s consistently been a great man. In that sense, he’s very much like his mentor and coach.

» One more and I’m outta here: Thank you, Tim Turman. The sport of football in Nebraska was better because you were there. Those sidelines will miss you as much as you will them.

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