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Color Creighton's win over Bradley on Wednesday night black and blue.
This was a bruiser, perhaps the most physical game played in the three-year history of Qwest Center Omaha. And when push came to shove, it was the Bluejays who showed they were the tougher team in emerging with a 80-76 Missouri Valley Conference victory before an announced crowd of 13,579.
"We'll feel this one in the morning," Creighton guard Nick Porter said. "We're going to be sitting in the hot tub after this one."
And smiling after a second-half defensive stand paved the way for Creighton's fifth straight victory in a 12-4 season. After allowing Bradley to shoot almost 60 percent from the field in building a 10-point halftime lead, the Bluejays dug in and limited the Braves to 31.7 percent in the final 20 minutes.
They seemed to come up with almost every loose ball after halftime and they shut down the Braves' inside attack that inflicted heavy damage in an 86-69 loss to the Braves on Jan. 2. Seven-foot center Patrick O'Bryant and forward Marcellus Sommerville, who combined for 38 points, managed just 12 points in the rematch.
"We talked about it before the game, and we wanted to show that they weren't going to dominate us like that again," Creighton center Anthony Tolliver said. "They both were pretty close to double-doubles in their house.
"We knew that if we'd come out and play physical with them, they wouldn't want any part of it."
Unfortunately for Creighton, the Bluejays didn't have any answers for guard Daniel Ruffin in the first 20 minutes. The 5-10 sophomore made 7 of 9 shots and scored 16 points - one shy of his career high - in helping the Braves build a 38-28 lead.
"He really hurt us in the first half," Creighton coach Dana Altman said. "He hit a couple of 3s and then just drove it at us. . . . I was very disappointed, and I think our team was disappointed in itself."
Bradley pushed its lead to 12 points by scoring the first basket of the second half before Creighton unleashed an 18-2 run that produced a 46-42 lead with 13:44 to play.
"I thought the first six minutes of the second half, we really set the tone," Altman said. ". . . We seemed to be getting to all the loose balls, and that got us some extra possessions and enabled us to get back into the game."
Another key factor, at least from Bradley coach Jim Les' perspective, was the fact that the Braves were called for seven fouls in the first 5:20 of the second half. Creighton, which made half of its 52 second-half points from the foul line, was shooting one-and-one at the 14:40 mark and the double bonus with 10:23 remaining.
Overall, Bradley was whistled for 30 of the 46 fouls called, including an intentional foul. The Braves also picked up two technicals, one when guard Tony Bennett and Creighton's Jeff Day got into a tussle and both were assessed technicals.
"You have to be able to adjust," said Les, choosing his words carefully to avoid any criticism of the officials. "It was getting more and more physical, and we were responding in the wrong way."
Creighton never relinquished the 44-42 lead that Johnny Mathies gave the Bluejays with two free throws with 14:40 remaining. They twice built the advantage to seven points before Bradley stormed back, pulling within 59-58 and 61-60 with 5:37 to play.
The Bluejays responded with a 9-0 run, punctuated by a Tolliver dunk, to give Creighton a 70-60 lead with 1:06 to play. The Bluejays then made enough free throws down the stretch to withstand a flurry of 3-point baskets and a four-point possession that pulled Bradley within 77-76 with 17 seconds to play.
Josh Dotzler made two free throws to push the lead back to three, and Pierce Hibma added the final point after he was fouled rebounding Danny Adams' missed 3-point attempt that could have tied the game.
"Our guys battled to the end," said Les, whose team lost its 14th straight Valley road game to drop to 9-7 and 3-5. "I appreciate that."
Ruffin finished with a career-high 22 points, while Will Franklin also had a personal-best 18 points. Tolliver's 19 points topped Creighton, which improved to 6-2 and remained in a second-place tie in the league.
Mathies added 16 for the Bluejays, and Porter and Dane Watts each scored 13.
"We played a lot harder in the second half," Watts said. "We were more physical, and we were the team that wanted it more."
NOTES: Bradley play-by-play announcer Dave Snell became ill before the game and had to be taken to Creighton University Medical Center after passing out. He was admitted for tests and was listed in fair condition late Wednesday night. Snell is in his 27th season of calling Bradley basketball, and Wednesday's game would have been his 795th consecutive game at the microphone. . . .Key stat of the game: Creighton's 20-6 edge in points off turnovers.