OMAHA, Neb. - Creighton scored in the fourth minute and led 3-0 at halftime en route to a 4-1 win over New Mexico in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday night at Morrison Stadium. Jose Gomez scored in the fourth minute of the match and Ethan Finlay scored a pair of goals to help the Bluejays equal their season-high goal total in advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Bluejays (13-5-1) will play at fifth-seeded SMU (15-2-0) in Dallas on Sunday at 7 pm. That second round contest will be a rematch of an early season meeting between the teams, in which Creighton jumped out to a 2-0 lead, only to see the Mustangs storm back and earn a 3-2 overtime win in the match played in Peoria, Ill., on Sept. 17.
Gomez got the scoring started with his fifth goal of the season just 3:21 into the match. The sophomore was able to chip in the score after a failed clearing attempt by the New Mexico defense. His shot hit the cross bar and bounced into goal, giving the Bluejays a quick lead.
Gomez assisted the second score, when his feed was blasted by Tyler Polak off the hands of New Mexico goalkeeper Justin Holmes and into the back of the net in the 31st minute. The MVC Freshman of the Year scored his second goal of the season and his second in as many games, following his MVC Tournament semifinal tally.
Creighton's third goal in the first half came off the foot of Finlay, the MVC Player of the Year. The junior forward beat the UNM defense long on a feed from Greg Jordan. Finlay then worked his way around Holmes on the right side of the 18-yard box, waiting for the keeper to commit and then moved around him to put the ball in the back of the net from a tough angle in the 37th minute.
The Bluejays limited the Lobos (9-6-5) to just two shots in the first half, both were turned away by Bluejay keeper Brian Holt. The Jays out-shot the Lobos 8-2 in the opening half.
The score remained 3-0 nothing until New Mexico's attack finally broke through. Devon Sandoval blasted in his third goal of the season from just outside the 18-yard box, sending it into the right side net from the left side of the pitch. His score was assisted by Michael Green and Michael Reed.
Holt needed to make two more saves to hold off the Lobos and the Jays tacked on an insurance goal in the 90th minute. Jace Peters sent a ball in the air deep into the Bluejay attacking area and it was misplayed by the UNM defense, catching Holmes out of position in the Lobo goal, allowing Finlay to walk the ball into a wide open net with 38 seconds left in the match.
Finlay tied a season-high with seven shot attempts, while his two goals give him a league-leading 14 on the season. This was his fourth multi-goal match of the season, tying him for third in a single CU season. He now has five multi-goal matches in his career, tying Brian Mullan and Jeff Deist for sixth in school history. With 28 career goals, he is now tied with Robert Addington (1981-84) for ninth place on the CU career scoring charts.
The Bluejays now turn their attention to fifth-seeded and seventh-ranked SMU. The Jays last played at SMU in 2003, earning a 2-0 win over the Mustangs. This will be CU's fifth all-time meeting with SMU in the NCAA Tournament. CU is 2-2-0 against SMU in the NCAA postseason, including a 3-0 win in 2007.
Kickoff for Creighton's second round match at SMU is set for 7 pm in Dallas on Sunday.
NOTES: Creighton is now 7-1-0 all-time in NCAA Tournament matches played in Morrison Stadium, out-scoring opponents 23-6 in those eight matches ... CU has scored at least three goals five of its seven NCAA Tournament wins at Morrison Stadium ... CU is 23-16-3 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, 8-4-0 at home ... The Bluejays are now 6-0-0 all-time against New Mexico, including 3-0-0 in Omaha ... Finlay now stands alone in Morrison Stadium history with his 16 career goals at the venue ... Finlay's 10 goals and 23 points at home this year are also Morrison Stadium records ... CU has entered the NCAA Tournament following two losses just twice now, winning both NCAA openers soundly - 6-0 over UMKC in 2003 and tonight's result ... Bluejay head coach Jamie Clark now has an NCAA Tournament win in each of his three seasons as a collegiate head coach.