Creighton center Ryan Kalkbrenner poured in a career-high 31 points as the sixth-seeded Bluejays withstood 11th-seeded North Carolina State’s comeback attempts in a 72-63 first-round victory in the NCAA Tournament’s South Region on Friday afternoon at Denver.
Kalkbrenner, a junior, made 11 of 14 shots from the field and also pulled in seven rebounds and blocked three shots.
“Nothing surprises me from Kalk,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “He’s just improved in every facet of the game, and he was able to score on (NC State forward D.J.) Burns. But then when they had to go small, we did a good job of executing some offense to get him the ball around the rim, and then he did the rest.”
Creighton (22-12) will meet third-seeded Baylor (23-10) in Sunday’s second round. Baylor eliminated UC Santa Barbara 74-56 in the first game at the site on Friday.
Baylor Scheierman, Ryan Nembhard and Arthur Kaluma all scored 10 points for Creighton, which made 17 of 19 free throws to compensate for 3-for-20 shooting on 3-pointers. Kaluma had nine rebounds.
NC State’s Terquavion Smith racked up 32 points — two shy of his career high — by making 12 of 27 shots from the field with one 3-pointer and going 7-for-9 at the foul line.
NC State (23-11) shot 37.5 overall from the field and went 3-for-13 on 3-pointers.
NC State used an 11-0 run in the second half for a 37-30 lead. The Bluejays responded to gain a 56-47 edge with seven minutes left.
Then Smith and Jack Clark bagged 3-pointers for the Wolfpack.
NC State was within three points, but Creighton converted on offense regularly. Scheierman’s 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down made it 65-59 with 2:25 remaining. The Wolfpack never made it a one-possession game again.
Smith had eight of NC State’s final 10 points.
“I’m super proud of my team,” NCSU coach Kevin Keatts said. “When you look at where we were last year to where we are now, and how hard our guys worked, what a season we had with 23 wins. Guys played their butts off. We’re going to walk out of here with our head up.”
Creighton scored the first seven points before NC State caught up later in the first half. The Bluejays led 28-26 at halftime.
NC State, which missed its first eight shots, shot 11-for-33 from the field in the first half without registering an assist. That included going 0-for-5 on 3-point shooting, though Creighton was only 1-for-13. The teams combined to miss the last 17 attempted 3-pointers in the half.
This was the first postseason meeting between the teams, which split two previous matchups in in-season tournaments.
–Field Level Media
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