November 29, 2014

Creighton may have blundered when it scheduled its first game away from home in Florida.

The No. 23 Bluejays will try to recover from their first loss and avoid a seventh straight defeat in the Sunshine State in Saturday evening's consolation game against Middle Tennessee in the Emerald Coast Classic.

Creighton (5-1) vaulted into the AP Top 25 thanks to a perfect five-game homestand that included an impressive 65-63 win over then-No. 18 Oklahoma on Nov. 19. The Bluejays, who have won 23 straight at home, were led in scoring by different players in each victory as they adjust to life without superstar Doug McDermott.

That kind of balance was evident Friday. Creighton had three players with at least nine points in the first half as it built a six-point lead at the break.

What followed was a defensive collapse in which Creighton allowed Mississippi to shoot 63.6 percent in the second half and close on a 12-3 run in a 75-68 loss for the Bluejays. Creighton's streak of winning 37 straight when leading at halftime ended.

"In the second half, we took better care of the ball but defensively we weren't on point," coach Greg McDermott said. "They really took advantage of some size advantages they had."

The streak that did continue was Creighton's losing run in Florida. It is up to six games since a 62-58 first-round NCAA tournament win over Louisville in 1999 in Orlando.

Reserve Isaiah Zierden led the Bluejays with 18 points and Austin Chatman added 15 and six assists.

Middle Tennessee (3-2) fell 69-51 to Cincinnati on Friday. The Blue Raiders gave up the game's first 12 points and trailed by 22 points at halftime.

"This is a great learning experience for our team," coach Kermit Davis said. "We are growing and we are still figuring out where we need to be and what we need to do. This kind of game only helps our team."

Reserve Darnell Harris scored 15 points on five 3-pointers in a special game for the first-year Blue Raiders forward, who was 0 for 8 from beyond the arc before Friday.

Harris transferred to Middle Tennessee from Northwest Florida State College, which is located in Niceville - the Florida panhandle city in which this tournament is taking place.

He was pleased with his effort, though he finished with a season-low one rebound.

"It was good to come back and play where I played last year," the 6-foot-8 Harris said. "I saw a lot of familiar faces and that was good. I wanted to play well. I was able to make some shots and get my confidence going. I have to do a better job rebounding, though."

These schools have never met. Middle Tennessee last beat a ranked opponent in 1989 with a victory over No. 16 Florida State.

"Middle Tennessee obviously lost today and they're feeling kind of like we are and they'll be hungry to come back and play not very long from now," McDermott said. "So we've got to tee it up here in about 19 hours so we don't have long to feel sorry for ourselves."

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