Facing a top-flight Southeastern Conference team in the National Invitation Tournament is not new for Creighton. The Bluejays just hope for a different outcome.
Then and now a mid-major looking to make a national splash, Creighton lost 82-54 at Florida in the second round of the NIT last year. In that game, the Bluejays committed 21 turnovers and shot terribly (40 percent overall, 20 percent from three-point range).
"We talked about that after the game but I think we're a totally different team,'' point guard Josh Dotzler said after Creighton beat Bowling Green 73-71 in a first-round game on Wednesday. "Guys have matured a lot, we've taken steps as a team. ... We're just a different team, and we're getting them on our home court. That's something that is very rare.''
Kentucky last played at Creighton on Dec. 19, 1940. That remains the last time Creighton played an SEC team in Omaha. Only two SEC teams have ever played at Creighton: Kentucky twice in 1933 and once in 1940, plus Vanderbilt on consecutive nights during the 1936 season.
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Creighton's leading scorer, guard Booker Woodfox (15.7 ppg), noted how the Bluejays see an opportunity to make a lasting mark by beating Kentucky.
"This game is really important, not just for us but the teams that follow us," he said. "It would be something if we could say we beat Kentucky. We're trying to prove that we're not just some program that won't play the big teams. There's a lot on our shoulders. We always want to play big teams and show what we can do. We know we're good, and want to show that we can win games against major D-Ones.
"This has a chance to be a real statement game, a game where we show that no matter who it is, we can compete."
Creighton apparently brought much of the same attitude to Florida last season.
"What happened last year against Florida is in the back of our minds, but that's where we're going to keep it," said P'Allen Stinnett, the team's other player with a double-digit scoring average (12.4 ppg). "What happened last year happened and we can't change it. But we definitely have an opportunity to turn things around this year. That's what we plan to do.''
Bulletin board material?
Creighton seems genuinely honored to have the chance to play the winningest college basketball program.
So surely it was inadvertent that Creighton's media notes for Monday's NIT game includes two bits of potential bulletin board material.
In the section for schedule and results, Creighton included a home game against Notre Dame on March 25. Of course, the winner of the Kentucky-Creighton game will play Notre Dame in the NIT quarterfinals.
And in the notes assigned to each probable starter, Creighton had plenty of choices for UK big man Patrick Patterson: All-SEC selection. All-America candidate. Four straight double-doubles. Fifteen double-doubles this season.
Creighton chose: "HS teammate of O.J. Mayo."