NICEVILLE, Fla. (AP) The emotional and physical stress of their first loss the night before caught up with the No. 23 Creighton Bluejays in the second half against Middle Tennessee on Saturday.
Creighton hung on, though, for a 57-47 win to claim third place in the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic. After building a big 36-15 halftime lead, the Blue Jays (6-1) turned the ball over on eight of their first 17 possessions after returning to the court.
''We came out a little bit casual,'' said Creighton coach Greg McDermott. ''''We just ran out of legs there in the second half. Fortunately we had a big enough lead to survive when our shooting went south.''
Austin Chatman and Isaiah Zierden led a balanced offense with 10 points each as Creighton bounced back from its 75-68 loss Friday to Mississippi in the semi-final of the eight team tournament at Northwest Florida State College.
Jaqawn Raymond led Middle Tennessee (3-3) with nine points. Joshua Phillips put in a layup to give the Blue Raiders their only lead at 4-3, but Creighton went ahead for good on a jumper by Toby Hegner with 15:15 left in the first half.
That started a 19-6 run. The Blue Raiders narrowed the gap in the second half but could come no closer than eight points.
''We've just got to get better play from our experienced guys,'' said Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis. ''We've got to find better ways to score.''
Middle Tennessee, with 18, actually hit one more field goal than Creighton, but the Bluejays were deadly from the free throw line, sinking 18 to 21 shots to only 7 or 14 for the Blue Raiders.
Creighton: The Bluejays ended their frustration in Florida where they had lost six straight games since defeating Louisville 62-58 in 1999 during the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Orlando. Creighton also kept intact a streak of not losing on consecutive days since its last trip to Florida in November 2009. The Bluejays had dropped a pair to then-No. 15 Michigan and Xavier in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.
Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders, though, continued a quarter century of frustration against ranked teams. The last time they defeated a ranked opponent was in 1989 against No. 16 Florida State. The losses to Cincinnati (69-51) on Friday and Creighton were the first back-to-back defeats since December 2013 when Middle Tennessee also fell to Cincinnati and then Maine eight days later.
Creighton: at Tulsa on Wednesday.
Middle Tennessee: at Belmont on Tuesday.
FOUR POINT PLAY
Zierden was fouled as he sank a three-point shot from the right side of the basket with 3:43 left to play and then made the free throw after Middle Tennessee had narrow the lead to 46-37. His four points came at a critical time, McDermott said. ''We needed a shot in the arm,'' he said. Zierden credit his teammates for setting him up for an open look. ''I just happened to be on the end that gets the glory,'' he said.
''Even this morning I didn't feel they had much pizazz back,'' McDermott said, noting his team led Ole Miss for most of their semi-final game. ''There wasn't a lot of gas in our tank.''