April 14, 2024
How Sweet It Is! Men’s Basketball Soars To Sweet 16 With Win vs. Baylor

DENVER, Colo. – For the second time in the last three seasons, the sixth-seeded Creighton men’s basketball team is headed to the Sweet 16! Sophomore Ryan Nembhard guided the Bluejays with a career-high 30 points to lead Creighton to a 85-76 win over third-seeded Baylor on Sunday night at Ball Arena in Denver, Colo.
 
With the win, Creighton (23-12) advances to face 15th-seeded Princeton (24-5) in Louisville, Ky., in the South Regional semifinals on Friday, March 24 at a time to be determined. Creighton is 1-0 all-time against the Tigers, claiming a 63-54 win back in 1961. The third-seeded and 11th-ranked Baylor Bears finished the  season with a 23-11 record. 

Hot shooting from both squads kept the contest close early, the Bluejays took a slim 15-12 advantage on a three from Nembhard before surging on a 9-2 run, highlighted by a pair of treys from senior Francisco Farabello to open up a 24-14 lead.

 

Baylor mustered up a response with seven of the next 10 points to cut the deficit to six at 27-21 before a pair of free throws from Ryan Kalkbrenner, a jumper from Nembhard and a three from Arthur Kaluma pushed the Bluejays advantage out to 34-23 with 3:34 remaining in the first half. 

 

A three late by senior Baylor Scheierman gave Creighton a 39-29 lead at intermission as Creighton shot 12-of-24 (50 percent) from the field and 7-of-16 (43.8 percent) from three in the opening frame. CU was paced by 11 points from Nembhard and eight points from Scheierman, while the Bluejays held a slim 19-15 edge on the boards in the first half. 

 

Baylor was led by LJ Cryer with 12 points as the Bears shot 13-of-36 from the from, including a 2-for-15 mark from behind the arc in the opening 20 minuets. 

Coming out of the locker room both teams traded blows as Creighton made five of their first seven shots and Baylor hit seven of their first eight shot to cut the deficit down to five at 50-45 with 14:41 remaining in the game. 

A pull-up jumper by sophomore Trey Alexander sparked a 15-5 run by the Bluejays that gave Creighton a 65-50 lead with 9:43 left. Four different Bluejays contributed to the run as Nembhard dialed up midrange jumper and Kalkbrenner finished a lob at the rim before a 15-footer by Kaluma capped off the surge. 

Baylor showed no quit cutting the lead down to 12 at 71-59, before back-to-back triples by Farabello and Nembhard gave Creighton its largest lead of the game at 77-59 with 5:54 remaining in the game. 

Creighton converted eight free throws down the stretch to secure the 85-76 win for the Bluejays. 

 

Nembhard led four Bluejays in double-figures with a career-high 30 points. Creighton got a combined 76 points from its starting five, getting 17 from Alexander, 11 from Kaluma, 10 from Kalkbrenner and eight from Scheierman. As a team, the Bluejays shot 26-of-55 (47.3 percent) from the field, including an 11-of-24 (45.8 percent) marksmanship from three and a perfect 22-of-22 from the line, while out rebounding the Bears 34-29 on the boards. 

 

Cryer led the way for the Bears with 30 points, as Baylor shot 29-of-63 (46 percent) from the field and 5-of-22 (22.7 percent) from three while converting 13-of-19 (68.4 percent) of their free throws.

NOTES: Baylor Scheierman has made a three-pointer in 45 straight games, and a school-record 35 straight games since joining Creighton …  It was his second straight game with a three-pointer on the opening possession of the game … Creighton has made a three-pointer in 983 straight games, and Baylor in 1,030 contests in a row. Both contests rank in the top-15 nationally among active streaks … Francisco Farabello made multiple three-pointers for the first time since Jan. 17th … Creighton’s nine neutral site games tie a school-record done last year …  Creighton has made over 300 three-pointers for the seventh time in program history, and first time since 2019-20 … Creighton improved to 17-24 all-time in 24 NCAA Tournament appearances, and is in the Sweet 16 for the second time in the past three seasons after no such appearances from 1975-2020 … Greg McDermott improved to 9-7 in eight NCAA Tournament trips with Creighton … Creighton improved to 4-2 all-time against Baylor, picking up its first win over the Bears since a 77-76 overtime victory in Waco in 1999 …  The BIG EAST has now had a Sweet 16 team in 27 of the past 29 tournaments, and multiple Sweet 16 teams in 16 of the past 21 tournaments … Creighton improved to 23-3 this year when tied or leading at halftime … Creighton’s six top-25 wins this season tie a program record also done in 2019-20 … Creighton played its school-record 13thgame of the season against a top-25 program, which leads the nation among non-Big 12 schools … The BIG EAST has multiple Sweet 16 teams (Xavier, UConn, Creighton) for the 16th time in the last 21 years … Ryan Kalkbrenner has scored 10 or more points in each of his last 19 games … Creighton has made 69-of-75 free throws (92 percent) in BIG EAST and NCAA Tournament play … Creighton’s sophomores scored 39 of the Bluejays 46 points in start the second half … Ryan Kalkbrenner and Ryan Nembhard are the second pair of same-named teammates with a 30-point game in a single NCAA Tournament, joining Memphis State’s Larrry Finch and Larry Kenon from 1973.


Sunday, March 19, 2023

Denver, Colorado, USA

Ball Arena

Creighton Bluejays

Francisco Bello

Media Conference

Creighton 85, Baylor 76

GREG McDERMOTT: I’m taking the Charles Barclay approach to cleaning my clothes for the next time I wear them.

So proud of this team. It’s been quite a journey with this group, from the start of the season with expectations, a great start, and then a really, really tough stretch.

The toughest stretch I’ve ever had with a high-level team.

For that same team to endure a six-game losing streak, with all the noise that there was on the outside, to stay together and to stay oriented and continue to work for each other and not point a finger at each other, to be in the Sweet 16, it’s a pretty remarkable story. And I’ve been blessed to be part of this journey.

Nine years ago, we lost to Baylor with a really special group, and tonight we beat Baylor with a really special group.

Q.  From the beginning of the season, the media put expectations on this team. People inside the program noted this team could make a deep run, and here you are knocking off Baylor. I know it’s not the Final Four, but is this the team you maybe envisioned in the preseason?

GREG McDERMOTT: Yeah, this is the team I’ve been coaching all along, but you have ebbs and flows to every season, and some are more drastic than others depending on the severity of the adversity you’re dealing with at that time.

You know, I’ve got three sophomores sitting up here. They’re playing their — at the time we were going through the six-game losing streak, they’re playing in like their 37th, 38th college game. It’s not like they were seasoned veterans and understood how to get through this, but they really grew through it.

The leadership of Bello and Ryan and Baylor and guys — like Shereef, older guys, really helped steer us through that. And these guys never backed down from those expectations. What are we supposed to say? No, we don’t think we have a chance to make a deep run? Of course they’re going to say we have a chance. They believe in each other and they’ve invested a lot of time, energy, and effort into making themselves the players they are today.

Q.  30-point game from Kalkbrenner last game, Nembhard has tonight. We talked about the parity of this team all season, but what is it like seeing in real time these guys step into these moments?

GREG McDERMOTT: It’s always been — with this team, it’s a different guy on every night. I think back to the St. John’s game, we were dead, and Art hits three huge threes to bring us to the win.

Trey has had big games, Baylor has had big games. Francisco was huge tonight, big difference maker in this game, his three threes and his defense and doing what he was doing.

It’s been a different person every night, a different guy every night. And our guys’ unselfishness to understand if somebody has got it going, let’s figure out a way to get him the basketball and get out of his way. We beat a really good basketball team tonight and we beat a really good team on Friday, and we’re going to play another one next week.

Q.  Ryan, you’ve probably been asked a version of this question a million times, but you were on the other end of this emotion last year and you couldn’t even do anything about it. Now that you’re on this side of it, how can you describe going from that place to this place?

RYAN NEMBHARD: It’s a feeling you can’t describe. I was obviously out last year and it was tough for me to watch, but I’m super excited to get back out with my guys this year. Our goal this year was to get back to a game like this, and we’re super happy we could pull out the win.

Q.  Ryan, from us watching you, it looked like you couldn’t miss today. Can you kind of explain to people out here who will never have that experience what it feels like when most shots just look like they’re going to go in or feel like it?

RYAN NEMBHARD: Yeah, it’s a great feeling. That’s what you want as a basketball player. You put in the work, you stay consistent with your work, and that’s the feeling you want. The rim felt a little bit bigger tonight, so luckily I made some shots, and we’re looking forward to the Sweet 16.

Q.  Coach, there’s not a lot of advantages to being as old as I am, but I think 10 years ago, the last season of the original Big East was the last time three teams from the Big East made the Sweet 16. I know you’re most —

GREG McDERMOTT: I didn’t see any other scores. Who won and who lost?

Q.  Marquette won and Xavier won. Marquette lost.

GREG McDERMOTT: We take great pride. We’ve had a text string since the started of the NCAA Tournament with the five of us that have been in. And Ed was the first one to chime in this morning to wish all of us luck today even though he got beat on Friday.

You know, I remember the first meeting 10 years ago, this first spring meeting, and Jay Wright’s leadership was incredible about this league is — if the new version of this league is going to work, we as coaches have to stick together. We can’t shoot daggers at each other. We have to have each other’s back. The decisions that we make, even though they may not be in the best interest of each individual school, if they’re the best interest of the league, we collectively have to support it.

Jay’s leadership is the reason that the league is where it is today, along with — Stu Jackson is at the back of the room and Val Ackerman and their staff has done an unbelievable job. But Jay was the one that got the rest of us coaches to buy in. And then Ed and I are now the old guys in the league, so we’ve tried to do that with the newcomers as they’ve come in.

We’re very proud to be in the Big East, and there’s a brotherhood there with our coaches. Obviously I’m thrilled that we’re going to have three of them play next weekend.

Q.  Of course you talk about religion yesterday in basketball, you mentioned your Irish Catholic mom. What influence has she had on you, and is she still around?

GREG McDERMOTT: Yeah, my parents are 89 years old, Earl and Mary are back home watching this tonight. You become who you become because of how you grew up, and the expectations that were placed upon you when you were a child, what was right, what was wrong.

I was fortunate to grow up with two parents that were always about treating people the right way and putting your head down, going to work and seeing what happens. I’m blessed to have them as my parents. I’m blessed to still have them alive and in my life. And then I’ve got four brothers who have supported me every step of the way.

I am who I am because of Earl and Mary McDermott, and I’m proud to say I’m their son.

Q.  For any of the players, you looked down your stats, raw stats, advanced stats, R2 might not be at the top of most of them, but how would you define his value to what you guys do?

TREY ALEXANDER: I mean, to have a point guard like R2, he gets our offense going. I feel like he’s at the heart of the flow of the offense, and I feel like him as a player kind of gets us going as a team.

I feel like anytime you look down the court and see him just speeding past anybody or you see him finding the open guy or talking you through the offense, he’s just a winner. And I feel like that’s what any point guard — anybody wants their point guard to be is a winner. For him to have a big night like this, everybody knew that he was going to have a big night sooner or later, but at the end of the day, he just wants to win.

ARTHUR KALUMA: Building off what you said, R2 does a great job controlling the pace of our game and the reads he makes is pro level reads. And it’s always good to have a guy like him on the team who’s not only just a point guard, but he’s a leader and we look up to him, even though he’s shorter than all of us.

FRANCISCO FARABELLO: Yeah, he’s one of the leaders of our team. There is no doubt about that. What I really like about him is that he wants the team to be better, not just certain individuals or him by himself. He wants the best for the team. And yeah, incredible player, even better person. I’m glad he’s our point guard.

GREG McDERMOTT: Yeah, I remember the first time I saw him play in Vegas in a side gym sitting there with Coach Huss. We were watching somebody else, and I said who’s that little guy from Canada? And he said well, his brother is at Florida. He’s probably going to go to Florida. And we kind of dismissed it and then Andrew ended up leaving Florida.

But I fell in love with him the first time I watched him play. His expression never changes. He has the type of demeanor that you want the rest of the team to look to because he’s never going to be rattled. He’s never going to get too high when things are going well, and he’s never going to get too low if he’s struggling.

To me that’s one of the characteristics that has to be with a great point guard, and he has it. He doesn’t need to score to impact the game. Tonight he scored.

Q.  Two nights ago we were talking about Terquavion Smith and now you’ve just got to throw your hands up at him. We come to this one talking about three guards you had to handle. Cryer goes for 30 but you limit the other two guys. How does this defensive effort differ from what you expected coming into the game?

GREG McDERMOTT: It was incredible. We talked to the team the last two days about limiting the number of three-point shots that they get and making sure that the ones that they do get aren’t great looks. I thought if we could make as many threes as Baylor, we had a chance to win the game. Obviously our shooters really showed out tonight.

But for them to only attempt 22 speaks to the job that Trey and Shereef and Bello and Baylor and R2 did, just being there on the catch. They made some two-point shots. We were willing to live with that. We didn’t think they could make enough of those to beat us over 40 minutes. Fortunately we were right.

Q.  You mentioned at the end of your opening statement, 2014 group was special, this group is special. What is it about this team that sets them apart from some of the other ones you’ve had?

GREG McDERMOTT: I’ve had some good ones. Probably what sets this group apart is what they had to deal with in December. The other teams that have been ranked in the top 10, there’s probably four of them, they had a few blips in the radar. But oftentimes their adversity came at the end of the season when we lost Maurice Watson to ACL and we lost Martin Krampelj late one season.

But they share that bond that they care about Creighton, and they’ve bought into how we’re going to play.

Coaches have a vision of what they want the culture to be. The players are the ones that make the culture with the decisions they make on a daily basis and the way they treat each other and the way they treat other people. And I’m blessed with a great group of guys that understand how to treat people the right way.

When that happens, things are fun even when they’re tough. We never gave up on each other for one second during that stretch, and that part of this team is something that’s always going to stick with me. To see guys come out of — Francisco tonight, he struggled to shoot the ball for his standards really all season long. And he and I have continued to talk about there will be a time when you make some big ones for us. He stuck with his teammates, his teammates have stuck with him, and he hits big baskets tonight.

So probably their ability to — when the outside world thinks the house is on fire, you’ve got to huddle up inside and figure out a way to put that fire out, and these guys did that.

Q.  Free throws were a problem kind of late last year during that run. What does it mean for your guys to go 22 for 22 from the line?

GREG McDERMOTT: They’ve all worked at it. We spend some time after practice shooting free throws, but there’s no secret sauce that you have. You recruit good shooters to start with and then have them work on situations where they’re a little bit tired, a little bit fatigued and there’s a little bit of pressure on them, and they all stepped up. Obviously those free throws were huge tonight.

Q.  Outside of basketball, how did the trip to Denver go? Did you guys hit any snags or was everything smooth?

GREG McDERMOTT: You know, the hospitality was wonderful here. The people at the arena and the hotel, they treated us great. We found a few good restaurants, which was good. Obviously it was a great experience for us, and we’re looking forward to getting on that plane and getting home and then heading to Louisville sometime the middle of the week. But Denver has been an awesome host.

Q.  Ryan, your teammates even up here on the dais saluted you with love for being a leader despite being small, and Baylor has some pretty good guards, including one that looks like he’s going to be a lottery pick. Do you care who you’re going against, and what kind of attitude do you take to the floor?

RYAN NEMBHARD: Honestly, no, we definitely don’t care who we’re going against. We respect everybody. We give everybody the respect they’re due, but at the end of the day, we think we’re just as good as anybody in the country. We come into every game thinking that mentality, and yeah.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Denver, Colorado, USA

Ball Arena

Baylor Bears

Coach Scott Drew

Adam Flagler

LJ Cryer

Media Conference

Creighton 85, Baylor 76.

SCOTT DREW: First, we want to congratulate Creighton on a game well played. Second of all, want to thank the city of Denver. I thought the hospitality was tremendous at the facility, the hotels, restaurants. It was a great experience for our team.

Third, nobody likes losing, but our coaching staff is really proud of this group, the way they carry themselves, the men that they are, the way they represent our university. We couldn’t be more proud of them and love working with them every day.

Life is short. When you get a chance to spend time with guys you really enjoy, it makes it really rewarding. Disappointed we couldn’t keep playing, but proud of them.

Q.  Adam, obviously their center scored a lot of points the last game. Was the plan to maybe try to stop him? I guess at the same time you might have had to give up a little outside.

ADAM FLAGLER: Yeah, we wanted to collectively do a good job making it hard for him. Credit to Flo, Jon and Josh for what they did, but credit to Creighton for their ability to make shots, and we weren’t able to get enough stops to pull off the game.

Q.  When you think back to coaching Flo and Adam over the last five and four years, what’s that meant to you and what moments stick out right now?

SCOTT DREW: Oh, great individuals, represented the university tremendously, great memories, and blessed to be able to work with them. And they’ve done a lot for our program, raised the standards, and always carried themselves in the utmost professional manner.

Q.  Adam, to piggy-back off that question, what do you hope your legacy is going forward? What do you want people to remember about this team and 2021 and what you guys accomplished?

ADAM FLAGLER: Just that we’re a resilient team. There were moments throughout the season where things weren’t going our way, but as a group, we collectively just wanted to continue to fight for one another. And credit to God at the end of the day for allowing us to even be in this March Madness and be able to play. So I’m just thankful for these guys. I’ll go to war with them any day of the week.

Q.  LJ, you guys got quite a bit behind, made a good rally in the second half. Did you feel like you were in a pretty good groove individually and that the guys were feeding you there, kind of finding the hot hand?

LJ CRYER: I mean, yeah, but I felt like — I don’t know, we didn’t get the win, so that’s kind of irrelevant to me. No disrespect, but yeah.

Q.  Coach McDermott was saying how much of a defensive effort it was to shut you guys down from beyond the arc. I guess what did you make of the looks you had tonight, and what maybe Creighton did to clog some of the shots tonight?

LJ CRYER: I mean, they’re physical. They grabbed. I mean, yeah, they were real physical, made it hard for us to get open, and they fanned out whenever you get to the paint. I don’t know, they just tried to make it — they tried to run us off the line, too, make us shoot more twos. Yeah, it seemed like that was their game plan, and they executed it.

Q.  LJ, kind of on the note of Adam, what have they meant for this program over the years and what’s it like playing with them?

LJ CRYER: I mean, having them has been amazing for me and my growth as a person and as a player. The guy next to me is like a role model to me. He carries himself very well, so I’m blessed to have somebody like this in my corner.

Q.  Creighton goes 22 of 22 from the line, started I think 5 of 6 from three. Were there shades of this game that almost felt like the opposite of that 2014 game where one team was too hot and it wasn’t even X’s and O’s or how you all were playing kind of game?

SCOTT DREW: Normally the second game people you have tired legs, and 11 for 24 definitely didn’t show that. So credit them for making shots, 22 from the free-throw line is outstanding, especially in the second game, to go to a Sweet 16.

Defensively they’re the No. 1 defense in the Big East, so they’ve got a good defense, it starts with their shot blocker. They got length on the perimeter, did a good job making it tough for us. But take the free-throw line, for instance; no one is guarding us there, and for them to go 22 for 22, felt kind of like their night tonight.

Farabello had been struggling from the field, gave him a big lift, and you’ve got to credit them. They’re a real good team. That’s why they’re ranked seventh in the nation at one point, and it wasn’t like we lost because we lost; they beat us today.

Q.  Scott, obviously after the game Kalkbrenner had the first — a few days ago, was the plan to try to stop him and did you feel like you maybe had to give up something outside because of that?

SCOTT DREW: Definitely. He’s averaging 21 in the last five, and it’s pick your poison when you’ve got a good inside outside. Credit them for doing a good job.

I agree with LJ and Adam, our bigs did a great job, but we had a lot of help, which led to some opportunities for them from three.

We kept changing what we did, and they were really good offensive team. They did a good job adjusting, as well.

Q.  Adam, Ryan went for 30 today; just talk about the challenges of guarding him. I know it wasn’t just you, but just collectively to try to stop him. Seemed like he had the hot hand today.

ADAM FLAGLER: Yeah, he did a great job of just controlling his team at the end of the day, finding guys and knocking down shots, so credit to him. We knew coming in that he was going to be their floor general leader and we wanted to do everything we can to make it tough for him, but he just had a really good game today.

Q.  Scott, with Keyonte probably heading to the NBA Draft, what’s it been like having him be a part of the program at Baylor?

SCOTT DREW: I think he’s really grown. When you come in as a freshman, you grow a lot off the court as well as on the court. And having LJ, Adam and great big brothers for him has really helped him, and Key is a fun teammate. The guys all really like him, and he wanted to learn from them.

Really credit his growth too all around on and off the court because of the teammates he had and his willingness to grow.

Q.  What are some of the major things you’re going to remember about this team?

SCOTT DREW: It’s a really, really good group of guys. They like one another. They’re good role models. They’re great for the university and community. It was always a joy going to practice each and every day because when you like who you’re with, it makes it fun and easy.

A lot of times at this time of year, coaches can’t wait to get away, players can’t wait to get away. And this group is a special group, and they deserve a lot of credit for the individuals they all are.

Q.  I was curious, was it like a discomfort thing with Langston? Was that why he was unable to get some run —

SCOTT DREW: Yeah, he couldn’t go today, so…