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HomeSportsNCAA Tournament: Ryan Kalbrenner powers Creighton past NC State team, managing just...

NCAA Tournament: Ryan Kalbrenner powers Creighton past NC State team, managing just 3 assists

Ryan Kalkbrenner and the Bluejays are in the second round. (Sean M. Heaphy/Getty Images)

Ryan Kalkbrenner made an appearance in the Big East this season.

On Friday, he introduced himself to the NCAA tournament.

The All-Big East center and Defensive Player of the Year dominated on both ends of the floor for a career-high scoring effort in a 72-63 Creighton victory over NC State. An 11th-seeded Wolfpack team that failed to record an assist or make a 3-pointer in the first half managed to keep things close, but All-ACC guard Terquavian Smith didn’t have enough firepower to pull off an upset . No. 6 seed Bluejays.

According to CBS, the half marked the first time since the 2018 tournament that a team failed to record an assist in the first half. Syracuse went without first-half assist against Michigan State that year, but managed to pull out a second-round victory.

Creighton opened up a 30–27 first half lead despite shooting just 1 of 13 from 3-point distance. NC State started the second half with a 9–0 run to take a 37–30 lead. The run included his first 3-pointer by Casey Morsell on his first assist of the game from Jarkel Joiner.

But the Wolfpack’s lack of ball speed continued as he managed just three assists for the game. He finished 3 of 13 from 3-point range.

Meanwhile, Kalkbrenner took over after an 11-point first half. He finished with 31 points, seven rebounds and three blocks while shooting 11 of 14 from the floor. Smith chipped in with 32 points, but it was not enough to overcome an offense that shot 37.5% from the field.

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Crayton went off the 3-point shot after struggling in the first half and finished 3-of-20 shooting from distance after attempting just seven shots from beyond the arc after halftime. Instead, it repeatedly looked inside to Kalkbrenner, who took advantage of his 7-foot-1 frame against an NC State lineup that started 6-9 forward DJ Burns along with four guards.

Creighton entered the season as a top-10 team, but started the tournament after a 21–12 regular season. It gets a tough test on Sunday with a game against No. 3 seed Baylor.

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