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Thomas’ 18 points lead No. 16 Creighton over DePaul 83-66

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Creighton has begun to pull itself out of the funk that set in with the season-ending injury to star Maurice Watson Jr.

Khyri Thomas scored 18 points, Marcus Foster had 15 and the 16th-ranked Bluejays beat DePaul 83-66 on Saturday.

Justin Patton added 14 points as Creighton (19-3, 6-3 Big East) won for the first time in three games since Watson was shelved by a major knee injury.

“The most important thing is it’s good to see these guys smile again,” coach Greg McDermott said. “It’s been a tough 10 days or so for our program. Everyone understands why. There have been a lot of adjustments and tinkering and experimentation, for lack of a better word, to try to figure out what’s best going forward.”

The Bluejays looked lost without Watson in their previous two games, losses of 102-94 at home to Marquette and 71-51 at Georgetown. A convincing win over the Big East’s last-place team was a good tonic, but next up is a trip to No. 11 Butler, a team the Bluejays beat 75-64 at home two weeks ago.

“This is just one game, and it’s a step in the right direction,” forward Cole Huff said. “I still think we have a lot of stuff we’ll watch on film that we need to clean up. Butler might be a top-10 team next week. They came here and probably weren’t too happy with the result. Today’s a start. We hope to keep going and see what happens.”

Billy Garrett Jr. scored 18 points and Brandon Cyrus had 12 for the Blue Demons (8-13, 1-7).

Playing only their second game in 12 days, the Blue Demons started 1 for 14 from the field on mostly rushed or bad shots. Starters Eli Cain, Tre’Darius McCallum and Garrett each committed three fouls in the first half.

“We were mentally and physically to start the game a little behind where we normally are and should be,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. “You can’t have an expectation in this environment that you can walk in and try to go blow for blow if you’re not as locked in.”

Creighton led by 21 early, but the Blue Demons got to 44-29 at half and were within 46-37 on a Garrett 3-pointer early in the second half.

The Bluejays put away the Blue Demons with three dunks in two minutes. Thomas passed to Patton on back-to-back possessions for a dunk and an easy layup, Foster dunked off Tyler Clement’s pass and Thomas got a jam of his own to make it 75-58 with 5 minutes left.

Creighton has won 10 of its last 11 meetings with DePaul, including eight of nine since joining the Big East in 2013. Each of the last nine meetings has been decided by 10 or more points.

“Credit coach McDermott today. He really had his guys ready,” Leitao said. “They lost a couple of games in a row and it was time to batten down the hatches. As a result, I thought their overall performance from start to finish was really solid.”

BIG PICTURE

DePaul: The Blue Demons couldn’t overcome the big hole they dug for themselves. They have lost four straight and remain winless on the road.

Creighton: After their worst performance of the season in a loss at Georgetown on Wednesday, the Bluejays rediscovered some offensive flow. But questions linger over who is going to take command of the point guard spot. Davion Mintz started and played 14 minutes, but reserve Clement got 23 minutes.

THOMAS’ BIG DAY

Thomas played one of his best overall games. He also had seven rebounds and six assists.

“I kind of needed it bad,” he said. “The last two games weren’t strong games.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

A 17-point win might not be enough to keep Creighton in the Top 25. The Bluejays’ stock has dropped with the loss of Watson and miserable outings against Marquette and Georgetown.

UP NEXT

DePaul hosts Georgetown on Tuesday in a meeting of the teams at the bottom of the Big East.

Creighton visits Butler on Tuesday.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.