No. 19 Iowa State aims to defeat Creighton for the seventh consecutive time when the teams square off Saturday in a Big East/Big 12 matchup at Omaha, Neb.
The Cyclones (7-0) can also match the school’s fourth-best start with a victory as they continue to put last season’s 2-22 debacle in the rearview mirror.
Creighton (7-1) is off to its best start since winning its first 13 games in the 2016-17 campaign. The Bluejays have won 22 consecutive nonconference home games.
The matchup also is the first between Bluejays coach Greg McDermott and Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger. The latter served on McDermott’s Cyclones staff from 2006-10 when Iowa State went 59-68 during McDermott’s tenure as head coach.
Meanwhile, Otzelberger has swiftly changed the Cyclones’ fortunes after bolting UNLV to take the Iowa State gig.
The Cyclones have double-digit victories over then-No. 9 Memphis (19 points), then-No. 25 Xavier (12) and 2021 Elite Eight team Oregon State (10) so far this season. They beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 83-64 on Wednesday in their latest contest.
However, all the early-season success made the 19-point win over Pine Bluff feel like a disappointment.
“It just stems from the fact we know we didn’t play our best on either end really,” Iowa State standout Izaiah Brockington said, “and I feel we let our offense kind of bring the defense down, and we just can’t have that.
“We’re a defensive team first and foremost. We have to get better with our habits and come out and be ready next game.”
Brockington leads the squad in scoring (16.6 points per game) and rebounding (7.6 per game). He had 23 points and 10 rebounds against Pine Bluff for his third double-double of the season.
“Izaiah is an aggressive downhill player attacking the rim, going up the basket,” Otzelberger said. “He did a good job in the teeth of their zone, getting penetrating catches, going right to the goal.
“I like the confidence that he’s playing with. I like how he’s shooting the ball, so I’d say he needs to continue to be aggressive for our team. I’m happy that he’s doing that. We need him to continue doing it.”
Creighton’s lone blemish this season came in a 95-81 loss to Colorado State, which knocked down 20 3-pointers.
The defensive issues were stunning in that outing, as the Bluejays have held five opponents to 65 or fewer points.
Creighton routed visiting North Dakota State 80-55 on Tuesday in its most recent contest. The Bluejays had a 44-16 edge in points in the paint and committed a season-low six turnovers.
“Turnovers are momentum plays because generally — and especially ours because it’s not like we’re traveling or stepping out of bounds — ours have been live-ball turnovers and they’re really hard to defend,” McDermott said.
Ryan Kalkbrenner scored 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting against North Dakota State. He is shooting a torrid 72.9 percent from the field while averaging 13 points per game.
Ryan Nembhard also is averaging 13 points while Alex O’Connell (12.0) and Ryan Hawkins (11.9) make it four players in double digits. Arthur Kaluma (9.8) is just off the pace.
Shareef Mitchell tallied a season-best nine points in 17 minutes Tuesday in his fifth game of the season. He has been dealing with a foot injury.
“He impacts winning in a lot of ways,” McDermott said of Mitchell. “I’m proud of him because he’s playing through a lot of pain and probably will be most of the season. He impacts our team in a huge way.”
Creighton’s last victory over Iowa State came in double overtime, 99-94 on Jan. 16, 1990, in Ames, Iowa.
–Field Level Media