- Associated Press - Saturday, December 3, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Akron coach Keith Dambrot knows Creighton better than most nonconference opponents, perhaps better than he would like.

After his Zips lost 82-70 to the 10th-ranked Bluejays on Saturday night, Dambrot said this Creighton team appears to be a cut above the other three he’s faced over the last 11 years - even the Doug McDermott-led squad that beat his team by 16 points in 2012.

“They’ve got a big-time point guard, a center who can run to the rim and three guys around them who all make shots, so it puts pressure on you defensively,” Dambrot said.

The point guard, Maurice Watson Jr., set a CenturyLink Center record with 13 assists to go with his 14 points. The center, 7-foot redshirt freshman Justin Patton, had 11 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and three steals. One of those shooters, Marcus Foster, scored a season-high 27 points, including 13 of Creighton’s first 16 points.

The Bluejays (8-0), off to their best start since the 2003-04 team opened 12-0, played their strongest first half in five games and never trailed.

“It was about staying focused in warmups, as we talked about last week,” Foster said. “We have to have a better mental approach to the game. I was really focused and locked in through warmups and it carried over to the first couple plays of the game.”

Kwan Cheatham Jr. had 17 points and seven rebounds to lead the Zips (6-2), who lost for the first time in seven games. Isaiah Johnson, the Zips’ 6-foot-11, 300-pound All-MAC center, had 10 of his 13 points in the second half. He struggled when Creighton sped up the game in the first half. The Zips were able to slow things down over a few stretches of the second half, and he was able to go to work in the post.

“It was hard to handle him with just one body, he’s so big and so skilled,” said forward Cole Huff, who had 16 points.

Akron pulled to 39-35 early in the second half. Foster picked up the crowd when he sneaked in the backdoor to dunk a lob from Watson. After Josh Williams’ 3-pointer for Akron, Foster weaved through the lane for another basket.

Huff made back-to-back 3s, and Watson hit a 3 between dunks by Justin Patton and Foster before the Bluejays finished a 16-3 run putting them up 62-44.

The Zips were without starting point guard Noah Robotham, who has an ankle sprain. Tavian Dunn-Martin picked up most of Robotham’s minutes and had seven points and three assists.

BIG PICTURE

Akron: The Zips won’t see any tougher opponent - until next week when they play No. 8 Gonzaga.

Creighton: The Bluejays once again showed they are capable of getting offensive production from anywhere on the floor, with four players scoring in double figures.

DON’T FORGET MO

Watson came into the game second nationally with 8.2 assists a game, something that has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.

“He’s the key to our success, and we go as far as he goes,” Foster said. “He could have 20 points a night, but he chooses to pass. I love playing with Maurice, a point guard who is going to find me and get other guys involved before he thinks of himself.”

Huff said, “I’ve never played with a point guard as unselfish as Maurice. He wants everyone else to feel good about himself and get their shots and get their rhythm.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Bluejays won’t drop from No. 10 after sweeping MAC opponents Buffalo and Akron this past week, and they might even move up a rung.

HE SAID IT

“This is the fourth time I’ve been in Omaha. One was for a Nike clinic and the other three have been a miserable experience.” - Dambrot, who dropped to 0-3 on the road against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Akron hosts Coppin State on Wednesday.

Creighton visits Nebraska on Wednesday.

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