OMAHA, Neb. — On Friday night, the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks make their first-ever trip to Omaha, Nebraska to take on the Creighton Bluejays and their high-octane offense.
The contest marks the fourth game of a six-game road trip for the Hawks, who have lost the first three contests, all by at least 22 points. Maryland Eastern Shore has been short-handed all season due to injuries, and the Bluejays will look to take full advantage of that from the get-go on Friday inside CenturyLink Center Omaha.
On paper, the Bluejays come in as heavy favourites, and for good reason. If the Hawks want to have any shot at pulling off the massive upset, they need to have a perfect night on both ends of the floor. A perfect night almost never happens, and the odds are stacked against the Hawks, who have just one win in their last six outings.
Here’s what you need to know for Friday’s contest.
Coming into Friday night, the Bluejays have one of the nation’s top scoring offenses, while the Hawks have one of the worst scoring offenses and defenses. That’s a recipe for a big game from Creighton, who have topped the 100-point mark on four occasions, all against Division I teams.
The Hawks have had to endure life without their top three returning scorers from last season, as Ryan Andino, Isaac Taylor, and Dontae Caldwell are all out for the season. At one point, they lost Logan McIntosh for three games due to an ankle injury. As a team, the Hawks are averaging a mere 57.9 points per game, which ranks last among teams in the MEAC and 348th in the nation.
Bobby Collins and company have had to rely heavily on their freshmen class to carry a lot of the load, including Miryne Thomas and Cameron Bacote. Early on in the season, Bacote was playing big minutes and producing rather well on offense. After the return of McIntosh, Bacote has been coming off the bench, and hasn’t been able to find his early-season groove.
With a thin front court rotation, and unproven guards on the back end, Maryland Eastern Shore could be in for another long night, this time against the high-octane offense of Creighton.
The duo of Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas have the offense for the Bluejays humming along at an impressive clip. Their 90.6 points per game as a team ranks eighth in the country, and they’ve scored 92 points or more on six occasions already this season.
Foster is averaging a team-best 19.0 points per game, while Thomas is chipping in with 16.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Creighton has eight players who have played in at least six games and are averaging at least five points per contest. Their balance and depth will simply be too much for the Hawks to overcome on Friday night.
Players to Watch
Martin Krampelj – Creighton
Quietly, the 6’9” Krampelj is emerging as a star for Creighton in his second full season with the team. The native of Grosuplje, Slovenia is third on the team in scoring, averaging 12.6 points to go along with a team-high 8.1 rebounds per contest. Over his last four games, Krampelj is averaging 14.5 points per game, and he has recorded double-doubles in back-to-back games. He is shooting over 67% from the floor this season, and against the thin front court of the Hawks, Krampelj could be in for a big night on Friday.
Miryne Thomas – Maryland Eastern Shore
Due to several key injuries for the Hawks this season, Thomas has been thrust into a prominent role as a freshman. The 6’8” forward is averaging a team-high 11.3 points per contest this season, and he has six double-digit scoring games under his belt. His production has dipped slightly over the past two games, and Eastern Shore will need a big game from Thomas to keep Friday night’s contest at a respectable margin.
Mitchell Ballock – Creighton
As his freshman season unfolds, Ballock is making the case for more playing time for the Bluejays. He put up a career-high 22 points against the UCLA Bruins earlier this season, which was one of his three double-digit scoring performances. Last time out, Ballock posted 13 points, six rebounds, and four assists in a career-high 31 minutes against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. If the game gets out of hand early, expect to see a lot of the 6’5” Ballock, who has shown flashes of star potential early in his collegiate career.
Maryland Eastern Shore hung tight for the first eight minutes with the Virginia Tech Hokies in their last outing, before ultimately falling by 53 points on the road. Expect another similar performance on Friday night against the Bluejays, who boast one of the nation’s top scoring offenses.
The first few minutes will be a feeling out process for both teams, as they get back into the groove after several days off from game action. Creighton will find their groove as the first half moves along, and will break the game wide open early in the second half for a blowout win.
Maryland Eastern Shore: 50
– T. Bennett