March 23, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The NCAA's second-leading team in terms of 3-pointers made displayed their shooting touch as No. 10 seed Creighton defeated No. 7 seed Syracuse, 61-56, in the NCAA Tournament First Round at Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday. The Bluejays, who average 9.2 treys per game, connected on 11-of-36 from beyond the arc to secure their first NCAA Tournament win since 1994.
Creighton (25-7) takes on the winner of the No. 2 seed Tennessee/No. 15 seed Oral Roberts on Monday at 7 p.m. That game will air on ESPN2 and ESPN3.
The Omaha-based school was led by junior guard McKenzie Fujan, who tallied a career-high 24 points. It marked the second game in a row that she set a career-best, as she had 22 in the Jays' last game, a Missouri Valley Conference semifinal loss.
Junior forward Sarah Nelson tallied 17 points, 14 coming in the decisive second half as Creighton shot 48 percent in the final 20 minutes. That included 5-of-12 from downtown. Marissa Janning scored 10 points for Creighton's third double-figure scorer.
Syracuse (24-8) was led by All-BIG EAST First-Teammer Kayla Alexander, who netted 23 and grabbed eight rebounds. Carmen Tyson-Thomas scored 13 points while Brittney Sykes grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
3-Pointers by Fujan and Janning gave Creighton a 10-point lead at 47-37 with 8:39 left in the second half. That marked the first double-figure lead of the game. The Jays continued to bomb away down the stretch as Nelson connected on a pair of 3-pointers to keep that lead at 10, 55-45 with just under five minutes left.
The Orange made a late-game push in the final minutes, cutting the deficit to three (55-52) on a Alexander lay-up with 2:32 left, as Syracuse scored seven consecutive points. Syracuse cut the deficit to one with a driving lay-up by Tyson-Thomas with 16 seconds left, making it 57-56.
Fujan set her career-high with a pair of free throws with 15.5 seconds remaining for a three-point lead. Syracuse's Tyson-Thomas missed a 3-pointer with seconds remaining. On the rebound Nelson was fouled and made two free throws to finish the game, 61-56.
Creighton opened the second half with a 9-2 spurt to take a 33-26 lead on a Carli Tritz layup with 16:22 left in the second half. Syracuse's Alexander scored the next seven points to re-tie the game at 33 all. The Jays responded with the next six points for a 39-33 advantage.
Fujan was Creighton's primary source of offense in the first half as she tallied 17 of the Jays' 24 points, connecting on 5-of-6 3-pointers. The remainder of the team combined to shoot 2-of-23 from the floor. A last-second 3-point play by Nelson tied the game at 24 all heading into halftime. Those points pushed Nelson to 1,000 for her career with CU.
Both teams struggled with shooting in the first half. Creighton was just 8-of-30 for 26.7 percent while Syracuse was 8-of-29 for 27.6 percent. The Bluejays outrebounded the Orange, 28-16.