CAIRNS, Australia – The Creighton men’s basketball team rallied from a 55-26 second quarter deficit to defeat the Cairns Taipans, 89-85, on Thursday evening at The Fish Tank in Cairns, Australia.
Creighton outscored the hosts 53-28 in the second half and turned 22 Taipans turnovers into a 32-6 edge in points off turnovers for the game.
All five Bluejay starters scored in double-figures, led by 18 points from Davion Mintz. Mintz’s five assists also tied for the team-lead with Antwann Jones. Ty-Shon Alexander scored 10 points in 23 minutes after rejoining the team yesterday fresh off winning a bronze medal at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
In addition to Mintz and Alexander, Damien Jefferson scored 17 while Mitch Ballock and Christian Bishop both scored 14. Bishop also collected eight fouls, but was allowed to play on thanks to some generosity by the Taipans coaching staff after he picked up his fifth foul early in the third quarter. CU shot 43.4 percent from the floor, 34.6 percent from three-point range and 60.9 percent at the line. CU dished 20 assists on 33 baskets and forced 15 steals.
Rookie forward Kouat Noi, who had 25 points against the Bluejays for TCU in the NIT quarterfinals in March, led all scores with 26 points and nine rebounds for the Taipans, including 17 points before intermission. Former NBA center Nate Jawai added 17 points and five rebounds. Cairns won the rebound battle 50-34 and shot 46.6 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from downtown and 64.1 percent on 39 free throw attempts.
Creighton trailed 29-13 after one quarter and stared down its largest deficit at 55-26 with 2:30 to go in the second period. The comeback started with baskets by freshmen Shereef Mitchell, Jalen Windham and Nic Zeil, and a jumper by Mintz in the closing seconds closed the gap to 57-36 at the break. Creighton made just 1-of-10 three-pointers in the opening half.
Cairns scored the first four points of the third quarter before Creighton outscored the Taipans 33-7 in the next 8:11. Ballock (3) and Mintz (1) drained four three-pointers during a 12-0 run to nearly halve the deficit (61-48) with 5:48 left in the third quarter. CU would draw within 68-67 after three quarters thanks to a 10-0 run to end the period. Jefferson opened the flurry with a jumper, and the run continued with two free throws by Mitchell, a three-pointer by Alexander and momentous trey to beat the buzzer by Jefferson.
CU had several chances to move ahead in the opening possessions of the fourth quarter, but didn’t take its first lead of the game until Jefferson’s dunk in transition with 6:36 left to make it 76-75. The teams exchanged one point leads five times in the next three minutes before Windham’s trifecta from the left sideline moved the Bluejay margin to 83-79 with 3:36 remaining. The Jays held off the Taipans down the stretch thanks to a huge bucket from Bishop with 1:04 left to make it 87-82, and Cairns never had a chance to tie it again.
Creighton remains in Cairns on Friday to visit the Great Barrier Reef. The Bluejays have one game remaining on their trip, an Aug. 12 game vs. Bullets Invitational in Brisbane.