The message in the huddle never changed, though Creighton coach Greg McDermott was just as baffled at the ball-handling mistakes as the prideful guys committing all those early turnovers Thursday night.
Creighton did have a week between games, and a three-day break from practice. Perhaps UMKC’s extended defensive pressure and swarm-to-the-ball style kept CU off-balance some, too.
The Jays (9-4) tossed a couple bad passes away. They mishandled the basketball. They dribbled too deep into traffic. They traveled.
The remedy for the sloppy start was clearly conveyed, though.
Take your time. Set your feet. Let the offense work.
Once Creighton settled in, it had no trouble building a lead against the Kangaroos (5-10). CU ended up making 61.8 percent of its shots and it recorded an assist on 21 of the 34 makes in a 89-53 win Thursday at the CHI Health Center.
“We’re super-efficient when we don’t turn the ball over,” sophomore Mitch Ballock said. “If we didn’t turn the ball over (Thursday), our offensive numbers would have looked even better.”
Of the 24 first-half possessions that didn’t end in a turnover Thursday, Creighton scored on 21 of those trips. And two of those three empty possessions featured a missed dunk and a missed layup.
Creighton ended the half on a 24-6 run — the Jays made eight of their 12 shots and all five of their free throw attempts during that decisive stretch.
They connected on five of their first six field goals to begin the second half, extending an 18-point halftime advantage to 54-32 after five minutes. They cruised from there, leading by as many as 39 points.
“The biggest thing is, we just need to stop panicking and just relax,” sophomore Ty-Shon Alexander said.
It’s been an issue at times this season.
The Jays’ 18 turnovers Thursday matched the single-game season-high that they set at Oklahoma last week. They’ve turned the ball on 19.3 percent of their possessions, ranking 185th nationally, according to Ken Pomeroy’s data. They were 22nd last year.
“Our teams really haven’t turned it over much in the past,” McDermott said. “We have to get back to that.”
Because the Bluejays can be really potent when they’re making smart decisions. They showed it Thursday.
Junior Martin Krampelj found a cutting Alexander for a layup late in the first half. A couple possessions later, Alexander dribbled into traffic and dished to Krampelj, who nailed a 3-pointer.
Junior Davion Mintz guided a bounce pass to a rolling Samson Froling for a 3-point play in the second half. He had a nice half-court pass in transition to set Alexander up for a layup.
Freshman Christian Bishop was the recipient of a pass from freshman Marcus Zegarowski, who broke the press and dribbled into the paint before recognizing that the defense was collapsing his way. Bishop finished that play with a two-handed dunk. He completed an alley-oop on the next trip down, set up by Ballock’s read.
But those 10 first-half turnovers still stood out afterward. It’ll be a focal point in practice this weekend with Big East play starting Monday.
“The coaches prepared us for (UMKC’s) fullcourt pressure and the on-ball pressure, but we’ve just got to keep working on getting open and setting guys up,” Mintz said. “We just have to try to settle down.”