Bluejays Head South to Caribbean Classic

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Courtesy: Eric Francis

OMAHA, Neb. - Following the first snow in Omaha, the Creighton women's basketball team is heading south to the Caribbean Classic as the Jays will face Miami University and USF in Cancun, Mexico on Dec. 21 & 22.

Miami RedHawks (6-4) vs. Creighton Bluejays (6-2)
South Florida Bulls (8-1) vs. Creighton Bluejays (6-2)

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Series History: First Meeting with RedHawks and Bulls

Historic win for Flanery
Jim Flanery captured his 196th career win versus  North Dakota State on Dec. 16, 2012, 63-42, to move into a tie with current Creighton athletics director Bruce Rasmussen for most victories in Bluejay history.  Flanery will claim the mantle alone with his next victory.
 
Creighton Coaching Wins
Name                      Wins    Seasons

Jim Flanery                  196    11
Bruce Rasmussen         196    12

Jays vs. Miami (Ohio) & Jays vs. USF
Creighton will face both Miami (Ohio) and South Florida for the first time during the Caribbean Challenge.

Scouting the RedHawks (6-4)
Miami has won three of last four contests, including a 71-37 win at Chicago State on Dec. 16.  The RedHawks are led by seniors Courtney Osborn and Kirsten Olowinski.  The duo are averaging 28.9 ppg this season, while Olowinksi leads Miami with 9.8 rebounds per game.  Osborn also creates for the rest of her squad, compiling 50 assists in nine games. The RedHawks starting five is rounded out by identical twin sisters, Haley & Hannah Robertson and junior Erica Almday.  Miami is not a team that shoots the three-pointer often, hitting 4.2 treys per game this season.  The only threat from deep is Osborn, who has 22 of the team’s 42 three-pointers.

Scouting the Bulls (8-1)
South Florida enters the Caribbean Challenge following its first loss of the season, 62-52, to Nebraska on Dec. 16.  The Bulls turn to a set of twin sisters as well, Andrell and Andrea Smith.  The Smith sisters average 30.3 ppg and 10.9 rpg.  Andrell leads the Bulls in scoring (15.6 ppg), rebounding (6.0) and assists (33).  The Bulls remaining starters are Tahira Johnson, Tiffany Conner and Inga Orekhova, who leads the team with 23 three-pointers on the season. 

The Coaches
Jim Flanery (Creighton, 1987) is in his 11th season as head coach at his alma mater and his 21st straight season on the Bluejay bench.  The first decade of the Flanery era has seen the coach bring continued success to the University with which he has been affiliated for over half of his life.  Flanery reached a new high as a head coach last season, leading the Jays to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.  Flanery was an assistant when Creighton made the NCAAs in 2002 and in 1994.  He joined a select group of coaches in 2011 as he eclipsed 100 Missouri Valley Conference wins.  The dean of the Missouri Valley, Flanery’s 116 MVC victories are tops in the league among active coaches.

Flanery has led the Jays to five consecutive postseason appearances, a school record, culminating in an impressive effort against No. 14 St. John’s last season.  Despite falling to the Red Storm, 69-67, Creighton forced its Big East opponent into a last-second dash to the basket and a tear-drop bucket for the win. Creighton finished the 2011-12 campaign with a 20-13 record, including wins in eight of its final 10 games.  The Jays also delivered an impressive victory over the ACC’s North Carolina State, 74-67, on Nov. 27.

With Flanery at the helm over the past 10 seasons, the Bluejays have appeared in the postseason eight times, recorded six 20-win seasons, captured a Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship (2003), an MVC Tournament Championship (2012) and played in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship game four times.  In addition, the Jays have  made two appearances in the postseason WNIT Final Four and captured the first postseason national championship in school history by winning the 2004 WNIT.
 
Miami - Maria Fantanarosa (Miami (Ohio), 1990)  is now in her 15th season as the head coach of the RedHawks. She is coming off leading Miami to a 21-10 campaign in 2011-2012 that saw it qualify for the WNIT for the second time in school history.  Fantanarosa has a combined 231-223 record, since returning to her alma mater as head coach prior to the 1998-99 season, Fantanarosa has guided a resurgent program to nine winning seasons in the past 14 years, including two Mid-American Conference East Division crowns, the 2003-04 MAC regular-season championship and the 2008 MAC Tournament championship.

South Florida - Jose Fernandez  (Florida International, 1984)  enters his 13th season as head coach at USF Fernandez guided the Bulls to an unprecedented eight postseason tournaments in the last nine years, and has continually competed with the top teams in the toughest conference in the country.  Fernandez has a 197-185 mark, leading USF to eight postseason tournaments, including the programs first-ever NCAA Tournament during the 2005-06 season, and to seven seasons of .500 or better - in the past 11 years - after the Bulls had recorded just three winning seasons, all 14-13 slate’s, in the last 24 years. He has also guided USF to three seasons with 20+ wins - 21-11 in 2004-05, 21-12 in 2006-07 and 27-10 in 2008-09.

Jays Heading South After First Snow:
Dec. 16 brought the first snow accumulation of the 2012-13 to the Omaha area.  As most birds do, the Bluejays will be heading south for warmer weather.  Creighton departs for Cancun, Mexico on Tuesday, Dec. 18 to participate in the Caribbean Challenge.  The Jays will face Miami (Ohio) and South Florida on Dec. 21 & 22, respectively, at 2:30 p.m. (CT).

Jays Out to Best Start Since 2002-03:
At 6-2 this season, the Creighton Bluejays are off to their best start since the 2002-03 season when the Jays started 9-2.

Continuing to Claim National Accolades:
After earning the ESPN Team of the Weekend, the Jays continued to nab accolades from the “mothership” as ESPN.com’s Graham Hays rated Creighton fifth in his Mid-Major Top-10.  In addition, ESPN’s Charlie Crème has the Jays as an 11-seed in the latest Bracketology.

Last Time Out:
12/16; W, 63-42 vs. North Dakota State
As an early holiday present, the Creighton Bluejays women’s basketball team gave head coach Jim Flanery his record tying 196th victory, 63-42 over North Dakota State. Creighton improved to 6-2 on the season following the victory, while North Dakota State dropped to 3-7 overall.

The Jays jumped to a quick 10-2 advantage in the opening four minutes behind four points by junior Alyssa Kamphaus and three-pointers by junior Sarah Nelson and Carli Tritz.  The Bison trimmed Creighton’s lead to just three points on two occasions, that last coming at 22-19 with 6:49 remaining.  At that point the Jays put the game out of reach with an 18-0 run to close the first half and take a 40-19 lead at the break.

The second half followed a similar script as Creighton pushed its lead to as much as 26 points in the opening four minutes of the frame with a 7-2 burst.  North Dakota State chipped away at the Jays’ with a 13-0 run of their own to close the gap to 47-34 with 11:25 remaining.  Once more the Bluejays answered, scoring the next 12 points to reclaim a 25-point edge at 59-34 with 4:01 remaining.

Kamphaus and Tritz led all scorers with 11 points, while Nelson recorded her 13th career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.  It is Nelson’s second double-double this season.

With the win, Flanery tied current Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen for the most victories in Bluejay history.  Rasmussen concluded his coaching career at Creighton in 1992 with a record of 196-147 in 12 seasons.  Flanery is currently 196-131 in his 11th season at the helm for the Jays.

Road Warriors
The Bluejays opened the 2012-13 season with three consecutive victories away from home, two road and one neutral site wins.  The Jays rallied to best BYU 65-62 in overtime at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah on Nov. 28 (neutral) and defeated South Dakota State (63-54 on Nov. 14) and South Dakota (53-49 on Nov. 20) on the road.  The last time Creighton won its first four contests away from home was the 1995-96 season.  That year the Jays won their first three on the road as well as a neutral site game.

Sharing is Caring, Jays 30th in Nation in Assists
The key to Creighton’s current four-game winning streak has been ball movement.  Over the past four contests Creighton has knocked down 104 shots and recorded 75 assists (72%).  On the season the Jays currently rank 30th in the NCAA in assists per game at 16.0.

Road Warriors, Part II
Creighton entered this week as one of two teams nationally that is undefeated away from home with at least three men’s and three women’s basketball games this winter. The Jays are joined by Duke on that elite list.

Flanery vs. MAC & the Big East
The Bluejays have a combined 4-3 record against teams that make up the Mid-American Conference (MAC), including 2-1 under head coach Jim Flanery.  Creighton is a combined 8-9 against teams currently in the Big East, including a 1-6 mark under Flanery.

Doublemint Twins
Both Creighton opponents this week at the Caribbean Challenge feature a set of twins in the starting lineup.  Miami Univeristy’s Haley and Hannah Robertson as well as South Florida’s Andrea and Andrell Smith have started the past five contests for their respective squads.

Jays’ NCAA Rankings
Seven games into the 2012-13 season, Creighton is putting up some impressive numbers compared to the rest of the country.  Through games played on Dec. 16 the Jays rank in the top 50 in three-pointers per game (13th at 7.9), assist to turnover ration (20th at 1.1), turnovers per game (27th at 14.5) and assists per game (30th at 16.0)

Jays Lead MVC in RPI by WarrenNolan.com

Creighton sits atop the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) at #53.  As a conference the MVC ranks 14th, featuring four teams in the top 100, Creighton (53), Missouri State (68), Indiana State (78) and Bradley (98).

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