January 2, 2022 

Bluejays soaring in early BIG EAST play

Creighton finds early season success with elite passing and three-point shooting

Moments after a 71-56 road win over Providence, Creighton junior Carly Bachelor celebrated with teammate Lauren Jensen outside of the guest locker room at Alumni Hall.

“I think the biggest thing just playing and even probably watching [is] that anyone can have a great game on any given night. Lauren had 17 points in the first quarter, that was crazy. And Emma [Ronsiek], her last two games were really good. And I just think that’s so exciting that anybody on our team can come in and make an impact off the bench.”

Creighton is off to a promising 8-3 (3-0, BIG EAST) start this season. The Bluejays play a pure style of team basketball that emphasizes passing and getting everyone on the court involved in the offense. Per Her Hoop Stats, they rank first in the nation in assisted shot rate (74.8%), second in assist/turnover ratio (1.50) and fourth in assists per game (19.5). The team has been led in scoring by four different players in 11 games this season.

“We’re deep. I mean you look at, you know, what we were able to get out of a lot of different people. And I think that’s probably been…the thing that excites me the most,” head coach Jim Flanery said. “I feel like we were a team and we’re not necessarily as reliant as we’ve been on two or three players as we’ve been in the past.”

Three point threats

Traditionally, Creighton teams have targeted recruiting to regional states within six or seven hours of Creighton’s campus in Omaha, Nebraska. The Bluejays recruit players who fit in well to the program’s team-oriented, three-point shooting style.

“We recruit to it. It’s harder for us to get the 6’3, 6’4 kids that are more back to the basket. So we’ve kind of usually just relied on 6’1 kids…who are a bit more skilled in terms of face-up game and play it on the perimeter,” Coach Flanery told The Next.

This season, the NCAA moved the women’s three-point line from 20 feet, 9 inches to the international distance of 22 feet, 1¾ inches. Coach Flanery told The Next that this change has impacted early-season shooting for his team this season.

“We’re gonna keep shooting quite a few threes,” Flanery said. “But, you know, the moving the line back [has] probably affected us a little. I feel like we’re close to where we’ve been in the past, but maybe don’t shoot quite as well because it is a little bit harder shot.”

So far this season, the Bluejays are shooting at a higher percentage from behind the arc (36.5%) than their average percentage over the past five seasons (35.3%). Creighton ranks in the top 25 nationally in three-pointers made (100). The Bluejays have hit at least one three-pointer in 432 consecutive games, dating back to Feb. 14, 2008.

Even at a new distance, the three-pointer remains one of the Bluejays’ biggest strengths.

Postseason potential

In Flanery’s 20 seasons as head coach, the Bluejays have reached the postseason (NCAA or WNIT postseason tournaments) 15 times, including 11 straight appearances between 2008-2018. In those 20 seasons, Creighton has reached the Big Dance four times (2012, 2013, 2017, 2018). The program reached the WNIT Final Four in 2003 and 2004, winning the WNIT title in 2004.

A look back at Creighton’s past five seasons reveals a team with postseason momentum:

2016-17: 24-8, won share of BIG EAST regular-season title; reached the second round of BIG EAST tournament, the second round of NCAA tournament

2017-18: 19-13, reached BIG EAST tournament semifinals, the second round of NCAA tournament

2018-19: 15-16, reached BIG EAST tournament semifinals (no further postseason)

2019-20: 19-11, reached BIG EAST tournament quarterfinals (postseason canceled due to COVID-19)

2020-21: 10-12, reached BIG EAST tournament semifinals, the second round of WNIT

According to the Dec. 31 version of ESPN’s Bracketology, Creighton is one of the “First Four Out” for the NCAA tournament field. They are currently 3-0 in Big East conference play and secured a resume-boosting 81-72 win against Arkansas on Dec. 21. They are ranked number 28 in the NET ratings as of games played through Dec. 31.

Twice this season the Bluejays have lost close games with 1.9 seconds remaining in the game. Drake defeated the Bluejays 82-79 on a game-winning three with 1.9 seconds left in the season opener. South Dakota beat Creighton 73-71 with a game-winning shot at the 1.9-second mark. Had those games ended with Creighton wins, they’d be 10-1 on the season right now. The Selection Committee will have to consider these close losses in their assessment of the Bluejays at the end of the season.

Coaches form scrimmage squad

After his team’s New Year’s Eve game against Butler had been canceled due to COVID-related issues within the Bulldog program, Coach Flanery improvised. Before practice at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Butler’s campus, the team played an inter-squad scrimmage featuring coaches and staff.

“I felt like it was a good opportunity to create some positive feelings about the weekend. It can be easy to start feeling bad about the situation,” Flanery said. “Having the staff participate made the experience light and fun, while also giving us a chance to some actual basketball in.”

Per BIG EAST policy, Creighton will attempt to reschedule the cancelled game against Butler. The Bluejays’ next game is Sunday, Jan. 2 [TODAY] at Xavier.

Written by Tee Baker

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