OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Ryan Kalkbrenner was mostly invisible on the offensive end in Creighton’s opener and again in the first half against North Dakota State.
But the eighth-ranked Bluejays made it a point to feed him the ball coming out of halftime Saturday, and the All-Big East center responded with a flurry that helped put away the Bison in an 89-60 win.
“Everybody’s job is easier if we can establish him,” coach Greg McDermott said. “If you’re playing against Ryan Kalkbrenner, you’re scared to death of him because he’s so efficient once he catches it.”
Creighton’s strategy in the first half was to emphasize mid-range and 3-point shooting to stretch out the Bison’s defense. NDSU didn’t budge, and Kalkbrenner got only one shot attempt and very few other touches.
On the first possession of the second half, Kalkbrenner took an entry pass from Baylor Scheierman and converted it into an easy basket. The 7-foot-1 senior scored 11 of his 13 points during a decisive 16-0 spurt over the first four minutes of the second half that put Creighton up 57-31.
Kalkbrenner added a dunk before going to the bench for the rest of the game with 13 minutes left.
Kalkbrenner put some of the blame on himself for his slow start.
“A couple plays in the first half I let them push me off my spot,” he said. “In the second half, I tried to stay on my spot and stay where I could get the ball easier. Being more assertive before I get the ball was the big thing.”
Trey Alexander had 21 points to go with seven rebounds, four assists and five steals. Scheierman added 17 points for the Bluejays (2-0), who shot 60% from the field, made 12 of 28 3-pointers and committed just four fouls while running its record to 12-0 in the series with the Bison (2-1).
North Dakota State got 15 points from Damari Wheeler-Thomas.
Kalkbrenner had limited touches in the Bluejays’ opener. He finished with nine points against Florida A&M, which clogged the middle and double-teamed him regularly. NDSU’s Andrew Morgan and Joshua Streit took turns guarding him and denied him the ball in the first half.
After Kalkbrenner scored to start the second half, he blocked Lance Waddles’ shot on the other end and then rattled in a 3-pointer from the top of the key. He followed with a couple more inside buckets.
“He’s very conditioned, so throughout the course of the game he wears big men down,” Alexander said.
Scheierman, in his second year at Creighton after transferring from South Dakota State, scored nine straight points early in the game and glanced over at the bench of his former Summit League rivals a couple times after he made shots. He finished with three 3-pointers, blowing a kiss and pumping his fist when his last one forced NDSU to call a timeout.
“We have a guy like Baylor that can get hot that quick. It opens it up for everybody,” Alexander said, adding that he thought Scheierman was insulted to not draw NDSU’s best defender. “He asserted his will against a team he played multiple times. He had a chip on his shoulder, and that got us out to an early lead. We rode his wave tonight.”
North Dakota State: The Bison came to Omaha off an overtime win over Western Michigan and a rout of Mount Marty. They hung close with the Bluejays for most of the first half, but they couldn’t keep up after that.
Creighton: The Bluejays have won 80 of 82 November home games since 1990, and Greg McDermott improved to 16-0 against the Summit League as Creighton’s coach.
North Dakota State: Hosts UC Davis on Tuesday.
Creighton: Hosts Iowa in the Gavitt Tipoff Games on Tuesday.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball