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College Basketball Invitational Championship Series, Game One - Creighton 84, Oregon 76 - Bluejays lead series, 1-0

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Doug McDermott scored 21 points and had a key blocked shot with 40 seconds left in the game to lead the Creighton Bluejays to a victory over the visiting Oregon Ducks in the game one of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) championship series Monday night.  Sophmore center Gregory Echenique added 15 points while Josh Jones and Jahenns Manigat each chipped in 11 points for the Bluejays.  

The Ducks are coached by former Creighton head coach Dana Altman, the winningest coach in Bluejays’ history.  Monday’s game was his first at the Qwest Center in Omaha after accepting the Oregon coaching gig for the princely sum of $1.7 million per year last April.  While Altman was greeted warmly, and even earned a standing ovation when the lineups were announced, the - a CBI record - made it clear that their loyalty was with the Bluejays, cheering fervently for the home side from the opening tip.

With a CBI record 12,381 fans cheering them on, the Bluejays fed off the crowd’s energy in the first half, as they shot a sizzling 59.3 percent, 16-of-27, from the field en route to taking a 44-37 halftime lead.  Freshman forward McDermott, the son of current Creighton coach Greg McDermott, led the first half charge, scoring 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field.  Fellow frosh Manigat was 3-of-4 from the field, and scored nine of his eleven points in the first half.  

The roar of the Creighton faithful reached a crescendo early in the second half when McDermott slipped inside and sank a layup to cap a 12-0 Creighton run that staked the Bluejays to a 58-41 lead with 16:09 remaining.  To the credit of Altman and his team, the Ducks didn’t fold at that point, which lesser teams would have done.  

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Oregon scored the next four points, cutting the gap to 58-45.  The Ducks continued to methodically whittle at the Bluejays’ lead, getting within six points, 63-57, when Jay-R Strowbridge made a layup at the 9:12 mark.  Creighton responded, going on a quick 7-2 spurt to extend the lead to 70-59 with 6:55 remaining in the game.  Oregon made one final charge, outscoring Creighton 13-5 over the next four minutes to get within 76-72 on a layup by Joevan Catron.  The final two minutes of the game were incredibly taut, as the Bluejays struggled to close out the Ducks.

It was McDermott’s blocked shot, a pure hustle play vaguely reminiscent of Don Beebe chasing down Leon Lett in Super Bowl XXVII, that sealed the win for the Bluejays.  The Ducks were trailing 82-76 with 46 seconds left to play when Oregon’s Garrett Sim recovered a Creighton turnover and fed teammate E.J. Singler for what seemed to be an easy layup.  McDermott literally came out of nowhere to swat away Singler’s shot and the Ducks last, best chance at stealing game one of the CBI championship series.  

Oregon fell to 19-18 with the loss.  The Ducks were led by Catron, who scored 15 points but shot only 6-of-17 from the field.  Sim and Stowbridge each added 14 points while Singler and Jonathan Loyd scored 10 points apiece.  Oregon shot 45.3 percent from the field so the problem clearly was on defense since Creighton made 28-of-51 shots from the field, 54.9 percent.  

The championship series shifts to Oregon on Wednesday night for game two, and game three if necessary.  Ducks’ coach Altman and his staff figure to have two sleepless nights as they try to concoct a scheme that will slow McDermott and the rest of the Bluejays’ balanced attack.  

Creighton improved to 23-14 with the victory.  Expect the Bluejays to go all-in on Wednesday night, hoping to beat the Ducks in game two to claim the 2011 CBI championship.  Tip-off is at 10:00 PM ET.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer
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