LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) When it comes to football and politics, Nebraska is as red a state as there is. When it comes to basketball, it’s a deep shade of blue, as in Creighton blue.
The 10th-ranked Bluejays (8-0) and Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-3) play their annual game Wednesday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, and Creighton’s dominance is expected to continue. The Jays have won 14 of the previous 17 meetings, including each of the last five by at least 10 points . Another win would even the all-time series 25-25.
The matchup’s story lines provide a fun yet contentious backdrop.
First, not much gets under the skin of Huskers fans more than the small Jesuit school in Omaha being better than the state’s flagship university at anything. On top of that, it bugs them that a lot of Creighton fans root for Nebraska in football – the Bluejays don’t have a team – and even cheer for the Huskers in basketball outside the one game a year against the Jays.
”The `Jaysker’ thing,” said Omaha radio host Nick Handley. ”That draws this weird, aggressive debate. The true Nebraska fans say you can’t be a fan of both.”
Second, the Huskers have given scant attention to Omaha when looking for players. Creighton has two starters from the state’s largest city, guard Khyri Thomas and center Justin Patton, and each said he received no recruiting interest from Nebraska. Neither said his feelings was hurt.
”I wouldn’t have chosen Nebraska anyway,” Patton said. ”I look better in blue.”
And then there’s the Greg McDermott-Tim Miles dynamic and their repartee. McDermott, the Creighton coach, is 12-0 all-time against his Nebraska counterpart going back to the late 1990s when they were Division II coaches at Wayne State and Southwest Minnesota State.
McDermott pointed out that Miles never beats him on the golf course, either.
”I can only hope the game Wednesday would be as easy as the Ryder Cup match between our two staffs this summer,” he said. ”I don’t think they were mathematically eliminated after the first day, but it was close.”
Said a smiling Miles: ”They cheated. Typical Creighton. Here’s a guy, 18-handicap, shoots 81. When Mac’s got sand coming out the bottom of his shorts and ears and hands, he’s the biggest sandbagger you ever met in your life.”
This is one of the toughest nonconference weeks ever for the Huskers. The game against Creighton will be followed by a visit to No. 3 Kansas on Saturday.
Creighton is fifth nationally in scoring at 90.8 points a game. Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster is scoring 19.4 points a game, Maurice Watson is second in the country in assists (9 per game) and Patton is second in field-goal shooting (78.9 percent).
The Huskers’ top scorers are Tai Webster (16.9 ppg) and Glynn Watson Jr. (13.8). Their best win is over Dayton, 80-78 in the Wooden Legacy in Fullerton, California, two weeks ago. They stayed close with now-No. 2 UCLA until the closing minutes in an 82-71 loss at the same tournament.
”We’re going into an arena that’s full, a lot of energy in the building,” McDermott said. ”When they come here, our building is the same way. It’s what college basketball is about. When you have a rivalry like that in the state where you have two of the top 20 fan bases in the country and you get together, it’s a lot of fun.”
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