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No. 21 Creighton, BYU meet in Las Vegas battle of slumping sides


Both No. 21 Creighton and BYU will try to end losing streaks when they battle in Las Vegas on Saturday night as part of the Jack Jones Hoopfest.

The Bluejays (6-3) have lost three straight contests dating to the Maui Invitational championship game. Their latest setback was 63-53 to archrival Nebraska on Sunday. Creighton lost a regular-season game to the Cornhuskers in Omaha for the first time since 1995.

It’s an unexpected negative momentum swing for the Bluejays given their lofty preseason expectations. Creighton was the preseason favorite to win the Big East Conference and was ranked in the Top 10 until falling to Nebraska.

“It’s different being the hunted,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “This team hasn’t totally adjusted to that.”

Poor outside shooting has made success difficult to come by for the Bluejays. Creighton has shot just 14 for 67 (20.9 percent) from 3-point range over the past two games. Francisco Farabello hit 5 of 9 3-point attempts against Nebraska, while his teammates were a combined 5 of 31 from long distance.

The Bluejays also struggled to generate easy looks or offensive momentum around the basket against Nebraska. They were outscored 46-16 in the paint by the Cornhuskers.

“We’ve had a rough week shooting the basketball,” McDermott said. “I can’t put my finger on why.”

BYU can understand the feeling. The Cougars (5-5) were offensively challenged in back-to-back losses to South Dakota and Utah Valley.

They fell to their rival 75-60 on Wednesday night, losing to Utah Valley for the second consecutive year. Poor outside shooting doomed the Cougars. They shot 4 of 26 from 3-point range and made a single trey on 11 attempts after halftime.

The Wolverines used an 11-0 run to take the lead for good midway through the second half.

“We’re still working really hard to kind of find ourselves right now,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “There’s a lot of things that we’re not doing great right now. We know we’re not playing very well.”

The Cougars have struggled to find consistency without senior guard Spencer Johnson on the floor. Johnson has missed four games with a knee injury that he sustained in a loss to Butler during the Battle 4 Atlantis. He averaged 11 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in six starts before getting injured.

BYU has gone 2-2 in his absence and needed to rally from a 23-point deficit to secure one of the victories. The Cougars have allowed opponents to shoot 23 of 47 (48.9 percent) from 3-point range the past two games.

“We’re trying different things right now,” Pope said. “We’re exposing ourselves to different things and trying to find the things that’ll work the best. But you know, clearly, we’re searching.”

Creighton and BYU faced off in Sioux Falls, S.D., last season, with the Bluejays winning 83-71. BYU leads the all-time series 7-4.

A victory on Saturday would allow Creighton to record at least seven wins in its first 10 games for the 12th straight season.

–Field Level Media









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