Creighton rallied from a 12-point, second-half deficit to beat the Bucs 75-69 Sunday afternoon at CHI Health Center Arena.
The Blue Jays (2-0) finished the game on a 24-6 run, marking the second straight year the Bucs (1-2) blew a double-digit lead against a Big East opponent in a nationally televised game. ETSU held a 22-point lead over Xavier last season but fell 68-66.
This time around, the Bucs led 63-51 after a 3-point shot by Patrick Good with 7:19 remaining.
"Our guys played hard and they battled, but this is a very disappointing loss," ETSU coach Steve Forbes said in a postgame radio interview. "I told the guys coming out of a timeout if we had three more stops, we had a chance to win this game. They go and score 10 straight times. You can't win against a team of this magnitude and in this type of environment by not getting stops."
Ty-Shon Alexander paced Creighton with 20 points and Damien Jefferson added 14. The Blue Jays opened 2-0 at home for the 23rd straight season.
Tray Boyd III scored 20 points on 9-of-18 shooting and Good, the former David Crockett standout, added 18 — hitting 5 of 12 shots from 3-point range — to lead ETSU.
"Tray is a talented player and I knew he could score," Forbes said. "He got a little anxious early with a couple of bad shots, but then he got it going. And Pat has proven he can make big shots.”
The Bucs held an overwhelming 40-22 rebounding advantage, led by Jeromy Rodriguez, who finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds. ETSU also had a 16-4 edge in second-chance points despite 6-foot-10 post Mladen Armus being held to just four points and seven rebounds. He played just 23 minutes because of foul trouble.
Down by four late, the Bucs missed a chance to pull within two when Armus was wide open near the basket, but the ball slipped through his hands.
The Blue Jays scored to open the game, but ETSU responded by reeling off the next seven points. The teams went back and forth the rest of the half, with the Bucs pulling out to a 26-18 lead on a Rodriguez layup.
Creighton came back with its own 9-0 run to take a 27-26 lead, and there were three more lead changes near the end of the half. Good hit a 3-point shot to put ETSU ahead 31-29, but Alexander's layup at the buzzer tied it at 31 going into the break.
BY THE NUMBERS
Creighton made 9 of 15 shots from 3-point range. The Blue Jays hit 63 percent from the field in the second half after being held to just 46 percent in the first half. Creighton converted on 14 of 16 free-throw attempts, while the Bucs had only three free throws, all coming off a long-range shot when Good was fouled.
"Our ball-screen defense went away and we started giving up wide-open 3s," Forbes said. "We just didn't execute. We ran a good play coming out of the timeout and we drop the ball right at the basket when we have a wide-open layup. We didn’t put any pressure on them at the free-throw line because we didn’t have any free throws. We also had 19 turnovers and we haven't been turning the ball over."
ETSU will return to action Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Winthrop.
Michigan State 75, ETSU 53
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State had five players score in double figures and the Spartans (2-0) pulled away from the Bucs (0-2) in the second half.
Leading just 32-29 at the break, the Spartans steadily increased the margin throughout the final two quarters. Sidney Cooks had 14 points to lead all scorers, and Victoria Gaines and Mardrekia Cook scored a dozen points apiece.
On the defensive end, the Spartans limited ETSU to just 20-of-57 shooting (35.1 percent) from the field. Micah Sheetz was the only Bucs player to hit double digits with 11 points. Erica Haynes-Overton added nine, and Britney Snowden and Sadasia Tipps each finished with eight.
Michigan State scored the game's first five points, but ETSU roared back with eight straight to take the lead. That push was part of a larger 16-2 run, but the Spartans were within four, 18-14, at the end of the first quarter. The Spartans pulled ahead in the second quarter and led by three at the half.
ETSU will finish off its three-game road swing to start the season at Radford on Thursday.