LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — When it comes to college basketball, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have been overshadowed by the Creighton Bluejays for more than a decade.
That needs to change, according to second-year Huskers coach Tim Miles.
Creighton enters Sunday's meeting at CenturyLink Center in Omaha having won 11 of the last 15 meetings.
"I just know that it's a really, really important game to me personally. It's an important game for our program," Miles said Friday. "Creighton has historically had excellent basketball. You look at their NCAA tournaments and how successful they've been. So we want to be able to go out there and compete and find a way to win."
Nebraska (6-2) leads the series 25-21, with its last win in 2010 in Lincoln. But the Bluejays (6-2) have controlled the series since the 1990s, much to the chagrin of Huskers fans who considered the small Jesuit school a once-a-year annoyance that surely couldn't compete in Nebraska's conference, whether the Big 12 or Big Ten.
Now, from a prestige standpoint, the programs are on more equal footing with the Bluejays' move from the Missouri Valley to the Big East, one of the so-called power conferences.
"It's a very important game for both teams," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "Both teams have a couple losses and some decent wins to go along with it. It's about basketball in the state of Nebraska. For that evening anyway, people are thinking about basketball in the state. That's pretty cool."
Though the Huskers have only three Nebraskans on their roster and Creighton one, the game generates additional buzz among the players.
"They live 45 miles down the street," said Creighton's Ethan Wragge, a native Minnesotan. "We've got to make sure we bring it."
Nebraska's Terran Petteway, who hails from Texas, said the game is a big deal because he and his teammates will be going against not only a nearby program but one of the top players in the nation in two-time first-team All-American Doug McDermott.
"They're easily one of the top 20 teams in the nation," Petteway said. He added, "We'll see where we're at when we go on the road. We've got 15,000 against us, but we'll be all right."
Nebraska's program has languished at or near the bottom of the Big 12 and Big Ten for years, and Miles is trying to capitalize on energy that has been generated with the construction of new facilities, including the Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Part of his building plan includes unseating Creighton as the dominant program in the state. Miles said he plans to have the Bluejays on the schedule every year. Last year the Bluejays won 64-42 in Lincoln, with McDermott scoring 27 points.
"I don't know what the series is. It's 0-1 to me," Miles said.
Miles said the Huskers have to keep Doug McDermott under control but also keep tabs on Wragge, the 3-point sharpshooter, and the versatile Devin Brooks.
Though the Huskers played a strong defensive game against Miami on Wednesday, they struggled to beat lightweight Northern Illinois four days earlier.
Beating the Bluejays would be a big step for his program, Miles said.
"They've got a team of a lifetime this year," he said. "I'm not sure we've closed any gap on them this year. I like my team. I'm happy the way they played on Wednesday, but I've also seen them play the previous Saturday. It just depends on which Husker team comes out, the one I like or the one I'm not so pleased with."