Woodfox leads Bluejays to title

It was supposed to be P’Allen Stinnett’s triumphant return home. But Booker Woodfox was the life of the party and took over the Orleans Arena as if he were a native Las Vegan.

The 6-foot-1-inch senior guard was virtually unstoppable Tuesday night in leading Creighton to the championship of the Las Vegas Classic with an 83-75 victory over DePaul. Woodfox scored 26 points and was selected as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

“I just wanted to be aggressive,” Woodfox said. “We knew we had to come out and play hard. It’s a Big East team. We knew they weren’t going to quit.”

Stinnett, who starred at Palo Verde High School, scored 14 points, grabbed five rebounds and played with renewed energy after a sluggish, foul-laden performance Monday in the Bluejays’ 84-65 win over Fresno State.

“I was able to stay on the floor, and that made all the difference,” Stinnett said. “It was a good homecoming, and it was great to win the tournament. Now I can enjoy the holidays with my family and friends.”

But he had his hands full trying to stop DePaul’s Dar Tucker, who single-handedly kept the Blue Demons within contact every time Creighton threatened to pull away.

Tucker, a 6-5 sophomore forward, finished with a career-high 32 points. But it wasn’t enough to keep the Blue Demons from falling to 7-5.

Stinnett said he and the rest of the Bluejays know it’s wise to follow Woodfox’s lead.

“We feed off Book,” Stinnett said. “He’s a great offensive player. But his shot is so weird, nobody knows when he’s going to shoot it.”

Creighton started quickly, running off 15 unanswered points and building a 23-9 lead as Woodfox was hitting from everywhere. The Bluejays also had a 12-4 spurt late in the first half to go up 41-26 as Stinnett had five of the 12, including a dunk off a steal of an inbounds pass.

But Tucker kept the Blue Demons close. He had 15 of his 32 points in the first half, including a 360-degree dunk following a steal with 42 seconds left in the half.

Still, Creighton wasn’t in much danger as it took a 43-35 lead into the locker room at intermission. The Bluejays re-established Woodfox early in the second half and built a 62-48 lead.

However, DePaul made one more run, closing within 75-73 and taking possession with 1:47 to go. But that was as close as the Blue Demons would get as they missed a 3-point attempt for the lead and Creighton’s Cavel Witter drained a 20-footer with 58 seconds left. The Bluejays won their seventh straight in improving to 10-2.

“Anytime you’re able to survive and figure some things out, it helps you,” Creighton coach Dana Altman said. “We had two tough games here and we’ve made some positive steps in preparing for (Missouri Valley Conference) play Sunday (against Wichita State).”

• NOTES — DePaul’s Mac Koshwal had a career-high 22 rebounds to go along with 13 points. … Saint Louis took third place in the tournament by defeating Fresno State 56-52, and Liberty defeated South Carolina Upstate 77-64 in the fifth-place game. Northern Colorado beat Southern 76-68 to finish seventh. … The field for the 2009 Classic, to be played next Dec. 22 and 23, will include UNR, Brigham Young, Nebraska, Tulsa, Delaware State, Eastern Washington, Jackson State and Chicago State.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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