The No. 12 Creighton men’s basketball team is headed to Las Vegas with a perfect 4-0 record after collecting big wins against Presbyterian College and Longwood University. The two teams came to Omaha as part of the Las Vegas Invitational, and now the Jays travel west to complete the event, starting with a game against the No. 24 University of Wisconsin Badgers.
“We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish with this four-game home stand and now it’s going to get a little tougher this weekend,” head coach Greg McDermott said.
The Jays kicked off the invitational by hosting the Presbyterian Blue Hose on Sunday and rolled to an 87-58 victory. After a slow start in the first 10 minutes, the Jays connected on four straight 3-pointers — the first by junior guard Jahenns Manigat and the last three by junior forward Ethan Wragge — to take a 13-point lead. Creighton held a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game and led by as much as 35 in the 29-point win.
McDermott led the Jays with 24 points in 22 minutes, shot 7-9 from the field and chipped in seven rebounds and two assists. Wragge came off the bench to shoot 6-8 from beyond the 3-point arc to finish with 18 points. Sophomore point guard Austin Chatman nearly recorded a double-double with nine points and a career-high 11 assists.
Redshirt freshman guard Nevin Johnson made his Creighton debut after missing the first two games with a high-ankle sprain and knocked down a 3-pointer for his first points as a Bluejay.
The Jays carried the momentum from the Presbyterian win over to Tuesday night against the Longwood Lancers and completed their season-opening four-game home stand with a 105-57 win.
Creighton was aggressive and asserted its dominance early and the Jays spent most of the night in the bonus, as the Lancers fouled Creighton repeatedly. Longwood’s leading scorer and rebounder, freshman forward Michael Kessens, picked up four fouls in the first half and only played 14 total minutes before fouling out.
Senior center Gregory Echenique had his way in the paint all night and finished with 17 points and four rebounds in just 19 minutes. The Lancers decided not to double-team the post, and Echenique took advantage.
“No matter who’s guarding me every night I try to go out there and try to impose myself on the other big,” Echenique said.
McDermott alos saw single coverage in the post and tied Echenique for the team lead with 17 points. Wragge and sophomore center Will Artino came off the bench to score 13 points apiece.
Chatman scored nine points an dished four assists, but also lead the team with seven rebounds. Greg McDermott said he felt the home stand gave the first year starter valuable experience leading up to the game against Wisconsin.
“I think it’s been good for Austin to get his feet wet and understand his role on this team, what he’s got to do to help us be successful, and I think he’s passed that test with flying colors to this point,” McDermott said.
With the preliminary games out of the way, Creighton shifted its attention to Wisconsin. The Badgers have been one of the best defensive teams int he country under head coach Bo Ryan, and Doug McDermott said the team is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s a huge challenge, and this is what we’ve been looking forward to,” McDermott said. “It’s one of the games we’ve circled on our calendar. I’m sure every Creighton fan did the same thing. It’s going to be a tough matchup. They are a really good team, well coached, but our goal is to win this tournament and we’re 2-0 and now we take on the third.”
Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.