OMAHA, Neb. – In a highly anticipated matchup of Preseason All-Americans, a veteran Creighton squad shot its way past North Texas in a 71-51 loss to open the Tony Benford era and the 2012-13 season at the CenturyLink Center on Friday.
The NBA scouts and 17,139 in attendance came to see North Texas’ Tony Mitchell take on Doug McDermott of Creighton (1-0), and the superstars didn’t disappoint. Mitchell led the Mean Green (0-1) with 18 points, seven boards, two blocks and a pair of steals.
McDermott, the nation’s highest returning scorer, nearly matched his sophomore scoring average of 22.9 points with 21, and was the focus of a CU offense that shot 50 percent from the floor on the night. McDermott also snagged a double-double with 11 rebounds.
"I want to give Creighton a ton of credit," Benford said. "They are a great basketball team that is well coached. They shoot the ball so well, and they don't get enough credit for what they do on the defensive end of the floor. That being said, we have to do a better job of executing."
The Mean Green had won a school-record 11 straight season openers before falling to the Jays, a team that advanced to the third round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. NT struggled to find its shooting touch on a night in which it hit just 32 percent from the floor.
That’s when Mitchell took over and rolled out the Mean Green’s next nine points, including a coast-to-coast dunk on a breakaway steal. Mitchell’s put-back dunk with 11:25 on the clock gave the Mean Green its first and only lead of the half at 13-11.
The Bluejays proved too hot to handle down the stretch of the first half, shooting 58.3 percent from the floor in the opening frame. CU out-scored the Mean Green 14-6 over the final 6:01 of the first half to go into the break with a 39-25 edge.
In the second half, Mitchell and the Mean Green held the Bluejays to 41.7 percent shooting, but the damage was already done.
A trio of NT players – P.J. Hardwick, Clarke Overlander and Austin Mitchell – made their collegiate debuts on Friday, while Keith Coleman made his North Texas debut. Hardwick and Coleman both found the box score with three and two points, respectively.
North Texas now heads to Manhattan, Kan. for the opening round of the NIT Season Tip-Off. NT will take on Alabama-Huntsville on Monday, followed by either Lamar or Kansas State.