Gon­zaga wipes out early deficit, beats Creighton 103-92

Tri-City Herald (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY ERIC OL­SON

Gon­zaga’s Zach Norvell Jr. got off to a slow start against Creighton for the sec­ond year in a row. Like last year, he fin­ished with a flurry.

Norvell scored 23 of his ca­reer-high 28 points in the sec­ond half, and top-ranked Gon­zaga wiped out an early dou­bledigit deficit to beat Creighton 103-92 on Satur­day.

Norvell’s shot was off through­out the first 20 min­utes. Com­ing out of half­time, coach Mark Few drew up a play just for him. Norvell took a pass from Rui Hachimura, went hard to the bas­ket and con­verted a three-point play. He scored nine of the Zags’ first 11 points of the half.

“When he makes his first one,” Few said, “it’s game on.”

Norvell has had a habit of start­ing slowly. Gon­zaga, miss­ing two key play­ers be­cause of in­jury, needed all the points he could pro­vide against a high­scor­ing Creighton team.

“I wanted to be ag­gres­sive start­ing off the half, get my­self a chance to get go­ing,” Norvell said, “and it went well.”

Last year, Norvell scored all 21 of his points in the sec­ond half of a 91-74 come-from-be­hind vic­tory over the Blue­jays in Spokane.

“We played 40 min­utes of pretty good bas­ket­ball against them the last two years,”

‘‘

I WANTED TO BE AG­GRES­SIVE START­ING OFF THE HALF, GET MY­SELF A CHANCE TO GET GO­ING, AND IT WENT WELL.

Gon­zaga’s Zach Norvell Jr.

Creighton coach Greg McDer­mott said. “Un­for­tu­nately, those 40 min­utes didn’t hap­pen the same day. They are a prob­lem to get stopped.”

The Bull­dogs (8-0), who took over the No. 1 rank­ing this week af­ter beat­ing Duke in the Maui In­vi­ta­tional, over­came a bois­ter­ous crowd of more than 18,000 at the CHI Health Cen­ter to win in their first true road game.

“It was just a great bas­ket­ball game, and I’m not say­ing that just be­cause we ended up on top,” Few said. “It was re­ally high-level play go­ing on, high­level shot-mak­ing. Creighton’s of­fense is re­ally some­thing spe­cial.”

Norvell said the Zags can build off the win.

“It was big-time for us,” he said. “Com­ing into an en­vi­ron­ment like this with a good crowd, a well-coached op­po­nent and know­ing they would play re­ally hard, we knew it was

go­ing to be a battle. We wanted to take the fight to them. It didn’t go well for us the first half. They made some tough shots. We were able to stay with it, stay poised and con­fi­dent, and we were able to get a win.”

The Zags, down 48-41 at half­time, took their first lead since early in the game on a Corey Kis­pert 3-pointer that put them up 66-65.

They held Creighton (6-2) score­less for nearly 4 min­utes in the mid­dle of the sec­ond half while go­ing on a 12-0 run to go up 84-73. Norvell hit two 3-point­ers and a layup dur­ing the spurt while Creighton missed five shots and turned over the ball three times.

“He’s a rhythm guy, he’s a rhythm guy in prac­tice,” Few said of Norvell.

“He missed a cou­ple real easy shots in the first half. You can al­ways tell the way it’s com­ing off his hand. It takes a spe­cial, con­fi­dent, coura­geous player to keep tak­ing shots like that. He’s def­i­nitely that.”

NUM­BERS TO NOTE

Gon­zaga’s Bran­don Clarke added 27 points and 10 re­bounds, and Hachimura had 22 points and 11 boards for the Bull­dogs. Josh Perkins had 13 points to go with a ca­reer­high 13 as­sists. … Norvell was 1 for 6 on 3-point­ers in the first half and 5 for 11 in the sec­ond. … The Zags upped their scor­ing av­er­age to 98.4 points, sec­ond in the na­tion. … Ty-Shon Alexan­der led the Blue­jays with 27 points. Damien Jef­fer­son had 15 and Martin Kram­pelj 10.

THE BIG PIC­TURE

Gon­zaga: With Geno Cran­dall (hand) and Kil­lian Til­lie (an­kle) out be­cause of in­juries, this was a ma­jor test.

The Zags trailed for only 23 of a pos­si­ble 280 min­utes com­ing into the game, and they had to play from be­hind most of the af­ter­noon un­til they took con­trol in the last 10 min­utes.

Creighton: The Blue­jays fell short of knock­ing off a No. 1 op­po­nent for the first time in three tries. But they are much fur­ther ahead of where most ex­pected them to be af­ter get­ting picked ninth in the 10-team Big East.

NATI HARNIK AP

Gon­zaga’s Bran­don Clarke is fouled by Creighton’s Martin Kram­pelj on a dunk at­tempt dur­ing Satur­day’s game in Omaha, Neb. Clarke had 27 points and 10 re­bounds in the top-ranked Bull­dogs’ 103-92 vic­tory.

NATI HARNIK AP

Gon­zaga’s Zach Norvell Jr. faces a trap from Creighton’s Kaleb Joseph (14) and Damien Jef­fer­son dur­ing the sec­ond half Satur­day in Omaha, Neb. Norvell had 23 points af­ter hal­time, pro­pel­ling the No. 1 Bull­dogs to a 103-92 win.

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