March 15, 2014
By Richard Finn
Special to BIGEAST.com
NEW YORK – Madison Square Garden has become CenturyLink Center East.
Decked out in blue, carrying signs and with plenty to cheer about through the semifinals, nearly 3,000 Creighton fans have helped make the Bluejays feel right at home this week at the BIG EAST Tournament Presented by NEW YORK LIFE.
“We bleed Blue,” said Larry Good of Omaha, wearing his Creighton blue sitting with his wife Shirley and friend Bob Gonderinger. “We just follow the team. It’s fun.”
The Bluejays, led by their all-everything senior star Doug McDermott, have not disappointed their rabid fans after holding off a furious Xavier rally for a 86-78 win Friday to earn a spot in the final. Creighton (26-6) will play Providence in Saturday’s championship.
Up by as many as 17 in the second half, Creighton saw its lead whittled down to just five with 1:23 left before hitting some clutch foul shots in the final moments to preserve the win.
Creighton head coach Greg McDermott acknowledged the importance of the fans’ support after the team’s thumping of DePaul on Thursday.
“Obviously we have a heck of a following, as you all heard tonight, and that adds more fuel to our fire as well,” said McDermott. “If that many people are going to make the trip halfway across the country to come and support us, we owe them a good effort.”
Creighton basketball has a loyal following at home in Omaha. Home games at the 17,390-seat CenturyLink Center are regularly sellouts and the school is ranked fifth nationally in average home attendance.
“Creighton basketball is a huge deal in the community,” said Rob Anderson, Creighton Sports Information Director.
Playing in the BIG EAST for the first time and here in the Big Apple is also a big deal.
“The appeal of Madison Square Garden, legendary and hallowed, and New York City is a huge factor,” Anderson said of the thousands of fans who made the trip.
Creighton fans also wanted to make sure they were here to see what could be a special week for the second-seeded and 14th nationally-ranked team according to Anderson.
“Our fans recognize this has been incredible three year run that they have seen as a Bluejays fan and with McDermott and guess what, they are not going to miss that opportunity to see how it plays out,” said Anderson.
Sitting a few rows up from courtside, Conal Hession of Omaha and his 16-year-old son Liam played hooky to be here this week.
“We took him out of school for three days because we didn’t want to miss the opening round,” said Hession. “We were not going to miss this.”