Second-Half Surge Lifts Women's Basketball Past First-Place Redbirds

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Sarah Nelson grabbed her ninth double-double of the year.
Courtesy: Eric Francis
OMAHA, Neb. - Sophomores Sarah Nelson and Carli Tritz led a strong second-half as the Creighton women's basketball team overcame a six-point halftime deficit to knock off league-leading Illinois State 68-59 Friday night at D.J. Sokol Arena.  Tritz scored all 16 of her team-leading point total in the second half, while Nelson scored 12 of her 15 points in the second half and the Bluejays out-shot the best three-point shooting team in the nation.

Creighton made 7-of-13 three-pointers to shoot 53.8 percent from long range, while Illinois State made only 4-of-15 (.267) after entering the night ranked first in the NCAA with a 40.5 three-point field goal percentage.

The win moves Creighton into a tie for fourth place with Northern Iowa at 8-6 in league play, improving to 14-11 overall.  The Redbirds fall out of a three-way tie for first-place, as they now stand at 9-4 in MVC action and 14-10 overall.

The Bluejays trailed 29-23 at halftime, after falling behind by as many as nine points in the first half.  The Jays committed 12 first-half turnovers, leading directly to 11 ISU points, while the Redbirds shot 43.3 percent from the floor to Creighton's 30.8 field-goal percentage in the first half.

Nelson and Tritz combined for just three points in the first half, as the pair went 0-for-7 from the field in the first 20 minutes of action.  Tritz was held scoreless in the opening half, while Nelson made 3-of-4 free throws.

The first 47 seconds of the second half set the tone for Creighton, as McKenzie Fujan found a wide open Ally Jensen under the basket for an easy two on CU's first possession and Tritz grabbed a steal and turned it into a fast-break bucket to force an ISU timeout.  The pause in action didn't slow CU's momentum as the Jays started the half on an 8-0 run to grab the lead.

The score would be tied three times and the lead would change five times in the first six minutes of the second half, with ISU owning its final lead of the night up 38-37 following a Jamie Russell free throw with 15:26 left in the half.  With the score tied at 40, the Jays would mount an 11-4 run capped by a Jensen three-pointer and CU would maintain the lead throughout.

ISU crept back within two, down 56-54 with just over four minutes to play, but the Bluejays responded by scoring the next seven points to pull away from the Redbirds.

The Bluejays not only had their best three-point shooting night of the season, they also set a season-high with nine blocked shots, led by Nelson's career-high four swats.  The sophomore finished with 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for her team-leading ninth double-double of the season.

Tritz scored 16 points to lead the Jays after her scoreless first half.  She finished 4-of-10 from the field and 8-of-9 at the line, while leading CU with five assists and four steals.  Jensen added 12 points, making 3-of-6 three-pointers.

Russell led all players with 21 points for ISU, making 9-of-19 from the field.  Chloe Nelson scored all 10 of her points in the first half for the visitors and Candace Sykes led ISU with 10 rebounds.  Katie Broadway, averaging 17.1 points on the season, scored a season-low two points on 1-of-10 shooting from the field for ISU.

Creighton closes out its home portion of the 2011-12 schedule on Sunday against Indiana State (12-13, 6-7 MVC).  The Bluejays and Sycamores will tip at 2:05 pm on Senior Day.  The Jays will honor their lone senior – DaNae Moore – following the game.
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