Led by 13 3-pointers, Creighton cruised past Montana, 98-72, on Wednesday night at the CHI Health Center Omaha in Nebraska.
Creighton finished the game 13 for 24 (54 percent) from beyond the arc and 32 for 53 (60.4 percent) from the field. Sophomore Mitch Ballock was 4 of 6 from 3-point range and sophomore Damien Jefferson added a 3-for-3 showing to pace the Bluejays. Seven different players cashed in from deep.
Five Creighton players scored in double-digits, led by Jefferson, who had 18. Junior Martin Krampelj added 17 and Ballock finished with 14.
"For us, the biggest thing is our attention to detail and our discipline," Montana coach Travis DeCuire told Riley Corcoran, the Voice of the Griz, in the postgame radio show. "I think we had some tough stretches where our mental toughness was challenged and we didn't respond very well."
Montana was led by an offensive explosion from junior Sayeed Pridgett. Pridgett, who was offered by Creighton out of high school, finished with 23 points, 21 of which came in the first half. Michael Oguine added 21, scoring 14 in the second half.
Creighton's hot shooting began immediately as the Bluejays knocked down their first eight shots from the floor and their first six threes. After leading 18-10 in the first six and a half minutes, Montana continued to find its groove and chip away at Creighton's play thanks in large part to Pridgett's play offensively. Pridgett seemingly couldn't miss, scoring 19 of the team's first 28 points and shot 8 for 12 from the field and 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
Creighton cooled off substantially towards the end of the half, and Montana forced the Bluejays into 10 first-half turnovers. With 7:30 to go in the half, Kendal Manuel scored his lone 3-point basket to give UM a 31-30 lead. Creighton quickly regained the lead and never looked back, heading into half with a 49-40 lead.
"Our stats offensively were good but we need to scrap and right now I just don't feel like we're grinding the way we should grind defensive possessions," DeCuire said. "I think we just weren't handling success very well. We were posturing after made shots instead of sprinting back on defense, which led to fouls. There were two or three times when they were driving and they didn't really have an advantage and we'd foul them."
The second half belonged to the Bluejays the entire way. Creighton opened the half on a 8-0 run to make it 57-40. Montana responded with a 9-4 run thanks to a dunk from Kelby Kramer and seven points from Oguine to close the gap at 61-49, but Creighton once again had an answer, scoring fast and efficient to extend its lead to 18 at 68-50. DeCuire said in the postgame interview that he wants to see better ball movement and shot selection from his players going forward.
"We have rules we play by on both sides of the ball and right now we're not sticking to them," DeCuire said. "I think we just have too many guys right now that think they're exceptions to the rules. Quite a few guys are playing a lot of minutes regardless to how well they play and execute and so it's hard to hold guys accountable when you're so thin. Until we can solve that, we're going to continue to struggle."
Montana got within 69-58 thanks to a 8-1 run with 11:38 left in the game but that was as close as the Griz got as Creighton answered with a 13-3 run. The Griz (4-2) will take on the College of Idaho on Monday while Creighton (6-1) hosts No. 1 Gonzaga on Saturday.
Notes and takeaways
Montana was without senior post Jamar Akoh for the fifth time this year due to a nagging wrist injury. Sophomore Timmy Falls also did not play the second straight game for an unspecified reason.
With Akoh out, Montana was out-rebounded 34-20 by Creighton including 12-5 on the offensive glass which the Bluejays turned into 16 points second chance points.
Akoh's absence also paved way for true freshman Mack Anderson and redshirt freshman Kelby Kramer to see extended minutes. Kramer tallied 13 minutes with three points, one assist and one block before fouling out while Anderson played 12 minutes, scored four points, grabbed two rebounds and dished out one assist.
Montana finished the game shooting 26 for 47 (55.3 percent) from the field and 8 for 17 (47.1 percent) from 3-point range.
Foul trouble hit the Griz early too forcing some defensive adjustments. Bobby Moorehead and Pridgett each finished with four fouls and Manuel added three.
Free throws were also a problem for the Griz who finished 12 of 22 from the charity stripe, a 54.5 percent clip. Creighton was 21 of 30 (70 percent) from the line.
Montana played in front of 16,457 fans, the largest ever in a true road game according to Corcoran and the second largest in the program's history. The Griz played in front of 17,997 in 2013's NCAA Tournament game against Syracuse. Creighton agreed to pay Montana $100,000 in guaranteed-game money for their contest.