Published December 19, 2012
OMAHA, Neb. – Tulsa brought one of the youngest teams in the nation to CenturyLink Center to face one of the most experienced in No. 17 Creighton.
The Golden Hurricane's 71-54 loss Wednesday night surprised no one. That didn't make it any easier for first-year coach Danny Manning to accept.
"Our goals are to win every game we play," he said. "Our goal is to go out and work hard, compete and execute our offensive and defensive schemes on both ends. Tonight we didn't do that enough. We have to be able to execute regardless of the situation, regardless of where we're playing.
"Youth is no excuse. This is the team that we have. It's not going to change. We have to get better each and every day and continue to build."
Creighton's Avery Dingman scored 14 of his career-high 21 points in the second half, and Doug McDermott overcame a slow start to score 16. Gregory Echenique added 15 points and eight rebounds for the Bluejays (11-1), who won their fifth straight.
James Woodard had 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead Tulsa (6-5), which shot 38 percent and committed a season-high 25 turnovers.
Woodard was 4 of 10 from the field, 5 of 5 on free throws and had four steals in the second straight double-double for the freshman guard.
"James came in early in the year and scored the ball at a very good clip, and teams have adjusted and they guard him a little bit different," Manning said. "Now he's trying to figure out how teams are guarding him. The one thing I'll say is he continues to compete on the defensive end and obviously he's a very good rebounder. He's a talented player, but he needs to continue to work and get better."
Tulsa's roster includes seven freshmen and one sophomore. Among the 13 players, the Hurricane has just 12 years' playing experience at the college level.
Creighton returned nine of the top 10 players from the team that won a game in the NCAA tournament and is favored to win the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Bluejays converted Tulsa's 25 turnovers into 32 points.
"Their defense was pretty good to cause some of those turnovers," Manning said, "but we as a team, there are times we need to be stronger with the basketball. That didn't happen for the most part tonight. Good teams take advantage of it. They're definitely a good team, and they most definitely took advantage of it."
Dingman was good on his first seven shots and made a career-high five 3-pointers, getting friendly bounces off the rim and backboard on his third and fourth tries. Dingman also had three steals to go with three rebounds.
McDermott, averaging 23.7 points and coming off games of 30 and 34 points, was just 4 of 9 from the field but made 7 of 8 free throws.
The visitors from Conference USA, who trailed by 22 points in the middle of the second half, got a 3 from Scottie Haralson and two free throws from James Woodard to cut the deficit to 12 with 5:03 left.
McDermott's two free throws and Dingman's 3-pointer pushed the lead to 64-47 with four minutes left.
Echenique's performance helped offset an otherwise miserable start for the Bluejays, who turned over the ball six times in the first six minutes and 10 times in the opening half.
With his parents from Venezuela watching him in person for the first time this season, Echenique scored 10 of the Bluejays' first 14 points.
The 6-foot-9, 260-pounder had two thunderous dunks early. The second came after Zeldric King, whose momentum carried him out of bounds along the baseline, tried to throw the ball off of Dingman's leg. Dingman made a sudden move, causing King to miss, and Echenique picked up the ball and slammed it in.
It was a tough start for McDermott, who was trying to become the first Creighton player with three straight 30-point games since Benoit Benjamin in 1985.
McDermott, who had 35 in a win over Tulsa last season, drew lots of attention from the Hurricane and seemed out of sync until he hit a 3-pointer from the corner to put the Bluejays up 46-28 with 13:35 left.
Kauri Black held McDermott in check for much of the game, but at one point four defenders swarmed him after he took an entry pass. He missed five of his first six shots, including a couple near air balls, and was held to five points in the first half.
Tulsa struggled more than the Bluejays, missing 12 of its first 15 shots, committing 13 turnovers in the opening half and not reaching double figures until more than 15 minutes had elapsed.