It was an upset when Creighton took down Colorado in the first round, and then when the Bluejays barely edged Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena a week ago. At what point do we expect Creighton to simply be the better team?
The No. 10 Bluejays were the better team for the final thirty minutes against Iowa State Friday, winning 76-68 to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history. They had another balanced offensive performance and combined 11 3-pointers with 26 points in the paint, proving impossible to guard as the game wore on.
This is the fourth time ever a double-digit seed has made the Elite Eight, and the first since Oregon, also a 10-seed, in 2017.
A dominant third quarter changed the tide of the game, as Creighton hung 29 points in the 10 minutes after the break and continued that offensive pressure into the fourth to go up by as many as 13. No. 3 Iowa State didn’t relent and got back to within four points, but it was too little too late.
Four players scored in double figures for the Bluejays, led by Morgan Maly’s 21. The team had 15 assists on 26 made field goals and committed only five turnovers after the first quarter.
The Cyclones, owners of the nation’s fourth-best offense per Her Hoop Stats, drew first blood, splashing the first of nine combined first-half threes on a drive and kick from Ashley Joens to Nyamer Diew. Iowa State got five points from each of Joens, Diew, and Lexi Donarski in the first quarter, building a three-point lead as Creighton was slow to get going.
The Bluejays weren’t on the same page with each other to start. The ball movement and player movement didn’t match up with each other, leading to five turnovers and six transition points for the Cyclones in the opening period.
But everything started to align for Creighton in the second quarter, sparked by Maly. The sophomore scored 14 points in the second, hitting all four of her field goals and all four of her free throws. Whether it was sealing her defender in the post to get an easy look at the rim or hitting from long range, Maly was doing it all, and her play helped change the tide for the Bluejays.
The Cyclones kept pace thanks to an outstanding quarter from their own sophomore Emily Ryan, who had 11 points and five rebounds. The two teams entered halftime tied at 30, but the dam had burst for Creighton.
Iowa State went to a zone to start the second half to attempt to keep the Bluejays out of the paint, but Creighton’s motion was too good. Driving off closeouts, setting screens and immediately rolling or popping, flashing to the middle when the defense overloaded — the Bluejays had pristine spacing, and it didn’t hurt that they made 5-of-8 3-pointers in the third quarter to go up eight.
The Cyclones’ answer was to feed Joens as much as possible and force Creighton to commit extra defenders, but Joens wasn’t able to pass out of the doubles effectively, and her teammates weren’t making shots at the same rate as the Bluejays.
Whenever Creighton needed a bucket, someone came through, whether it was Tatum Rembao, Payton Brotzki, or second-round hero Lauren Jensen. The Bluejays looked poised and prepared for the moment, and earned yet another victory over an Iowa powerhouse. Now comes a date with South Carolina in the Elite Eight.