Two different halves, but one consistent style. That was the path to the win for Doug McDermott and Creighton on Friday night against Wisconsin.
The Bluejays walked away with an 84-74 win, thanks in large part to pushing the tempo against the Badgers. Wisconsin was never able to slow the game down to the crawl that Bo Ryan prefers his team play at, and couldn't stop themselves from playing faster too.
This one could have been over early. The Jays were taking shots within the first few seconds of their possessions, and a lot of them missed. But Gregory Echenique was there to clean up the misses more often than not (five offensive rebounds). Creighton grabbed the offensive rebound on almost half its misses during the opening 20 minutes, helping to make up for one of its poorer shooting halves of the year.
Creighton went to the break down just one despite shooting 3-for-14 from 3-point range. Had the Jays been their normal selves in that half, Wisconsin might not have had the chance it did.
That all changed after halftime.
McDermott couldn't miss; Austin Chatman couldn't miss.
Most importantly, Ethan Wragge couldn't miss. The junior went 4-for-7 from 3-point range in the game, and seemed to sink one from long range each time the Badgers threatened to take control.
There were just too many Bluejays shooting well in the second half, and the team raised its shooting percentage from just 37 percent to over 46 percent with their hot hands. Creighton shot so well after halftime that it didn't grab one offensive rebound during the final 20 minutes. There were barely any chances to do so.
And there was nothing that Wisconsin could do to counter that; its style of play just doesn't lend itself to getting into a horse race.
Jared Berggren tried with a 27-point night on 9-for-14 shooting from the floor. George Marshall did his best from long range (3-for-7 from three). Even stronger offensive rebounding for the Badgers couldn't slow down Creighton.
Two different halves -- one cold, one hot -- and the Bluejays were just as competitive in both. It makes you wonder how you could beat Creighton at all.
Maybe one night McDermott and company will be cold for 40 minutes instead of 20. Maybe Echenique will get into foul trouble prior to the final seven minutes of the game. Maybe there is some combination that could stop this team.
Wisconsin tried, and the Badgers just got run over in the process. Right now, the No. 14 team in the country is just too good and too confident to slow down.