The Bluejays had to feel a little bit weird in their opening round game against Louisiana-Lafeyette, as they were playing the role of the team from the big conference trying to hold off a mid-major program looking to make an upset, the role they’ve occupied the last two tournaments. Ragin’ Cajuns point guard Elfrid Payton shined on the big stage, going for 24 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks while only turning it over one time, but he was outperformed by Doug McDermott. McDermott recorded a game high 30 points and 12 rebounds and Ethan Wraggle went 4-8 from beyond the arc as the Bluejays won their opening round game for the third consecutive season 76-66. The only thing that was uncharacteristic about the win was that the Bluejays did not shoot like they normally do from the free throw line, going 11-21. That gave the Ragin’ Cajuns’ upset bid a larger window of opportunity, especially with Elfrid Payton playing at such a high level. The two teams were even in the rebounding category at 36 apiece, but the Bluejays did allow them to grab 13 offensive rebounds. Along with their free throw shooting, that’s another area that they’re going to have to be much improved in against the Bears. The Bears are long, strong and athletic. The Bluejays have to be able to handle their physicality and keep them off of the free throw line.
There are very few teams in the tournament with the size and strength to match up with the Bears’ talented frontline of Royce O’neale, Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin. The Nebraska Cornhuskers were not one of them as they fell to the surging Bears, one of the hottest teams in the field, 74-60. After a low scoring first half in which the Bears outscored the Cornuskers 29-16, the tempo picked up considerably in the second half. The Cornhuskers went on a run and got the deficit down to single digits at one point in the second half, but shortly after their head coach Tim Miles was ejected and their chances for a comeback left with him. The Bears outrebounded the Cornhuskers by 12 and got to the free throw line more than once a minute, making 48 trips and connecting on 79.2 percent of their attempts. Senior forward Cory Jefferson scored a team-high 16 while Isaiah Austin (13), Brady Heslip (12) and Rico Gathers (11) also scored in double figures. The Bears 48-16 advantage in free throw attempts helped make up for a 2-13 night from beyond the arc. In the Round of 32 they’ll go up against one of the most difficult teams to defend in the country in the Creighton Bluejays. Obviously, slowing them down starts with containing Doug McDermott, but they’ve proven on multiple occasions that they’re not a one man team. As long as the Bears’ frontline is playing at the level they did on Friday, they stand a chance against anyone, including the Bluejays.
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