The No. 13 Creighton’s men basketball team won in style at the Creighton Vs. Cancer Third Annual Pink Out game at CenturyLink Center Omaha, knocking off the Bradley University Braves in front of a sold-out crowd. The Jays overcame a slow start to pull away in the second half and rolled to a 75-58 victory.
Creighton wore white jerseys with pink numbers and trim for the third straight year as part of an effort to raise breast cancer awareness. Pink out t-shirts were handed out to fans before the game and the players’ jerseys were raffled off to raise money.
“It’s been incredible where it’s come from three years ago to where it is today,” said head coach Greg McDermott, whose wife Theresa is a breast cancer survivor. “It’s really cool to see this place in pink and the message that sends … Early detection is so important in the treatment of cancer. It may have saved my wife’s life. That’s what we’re here for today.”
The Jays were also there to play a game, although it didn’t look that way early on. Junior forward Doug McDermott scored eight of the Jays’ first 11 points, but the rest of the Jays struggled to make their shots. Creighton, the best 3-point shooting team in the country, could not find their stroke from deep in the first half. But that did not stop them from trying.
Creighton launched 21 3-pointers in the first half – making just seven – and only took eight shots inside the arc. With the 3-ball not falling, the Bluejays found themselves down 30-27 at the end of the first period. In addition to the poor shooting, Creighton got outrebounded 20-15.
“With this team it doesn’t surprise me [that we shot so many 3-pointers],” McDermott said. “We like to shoot the threes. That’s our game. They weren’t falling, but we bounced back there in the second half.”
Creighton was determined to get the ball inside to start the second half, and opened the period with an 8-0 run that featured two buckets each by McDermott and senior center Gregory Echenique, all in the paint.
“The key to the game was us scoring four straight possessions to start the second half and holding them scoreless four straight possessions to regain that lead and get a little bit of the momentum of the game back because they did a great job of keeping us from getting it the first half, and that’s a credit to them,” Greg McDermott said.
The run gave the Jays a lead they would not relinquish. The Braves kept the game close until a 12-0 run by Creighton pushed the lead to 17. The run opened with a 3-pointer by freshman point guard Austin Chatman, and then McDermott did the rest with a 9-0 run of his own.
The Jays cruised the rest of the way to secure a 17-point victory. After scoring just four points in the paint in the first half, the Jays scored 26 inside in the second half. The Jays also shot much better from deep, hitting five of their 10 attempts. After losing the first half battle of the boards, Creighton outrebounded the Braves 18-4 in the second half.
McDermott scored a game-high 25 points and hauled in seven rebounds. The All-American continues to make his case to be the National Player of the Year in college basketball, an award Bradley head coach Geno Ford said he deserves.
“He’s really good,” Ford said. “There’s a reason he’s up for national college player of the year and it’s, quite frankly, an award he probably should get.”
Chatmam kept the team alive in the first half and finished with a career-high 16 points on 6-11 shooting, including 4-7 from 3-point range (also a career-high).
“My man was doing a lot of the digging so it left me open for a lot of threes,” Chatman said. “I’ve just been in the gym working with coaches and just staying after my shot, and it paid off.”
The Jays failed to get the ball inside early, but the Creighton post players still put forth a solid game. Echenique and sophomore center Will Artino combined to shoot a perfect 7-7 from the field and 3-3 from the free-throw line for 17 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
The Jays got off to a slow start again in Terre Haute on Wednesday as they took on the Indiana State University Sycamores, but this time Creighton couldn’t turn it around and got blown out of the gym. Look online for the full recap of the 76-57 loss, which dropped Creighton to 20-4 on the season and 9-3 in MVC play.
Creighton returns home on Saturday to host the Illinois State University Redbirds. Tip-off is set for 9:05 p.m. at CenturyLink Center Omaha.