They say “When opportunity knocks, you open the door.” Tonight there were a lot of opportunities available to the Bluejays: An opportunity to stay in the Valley race for another night, an opportunity to see what this team looks like without P’Allen Stinnett and an opportunity for players to step up. No one answered the door faster than Josh Jones.
Jones, a redshirt freshman, had been on and off the court this season not seeing many minutes almost seemingly not having the right place to fit in. But tonight when he was inserted into the game in the first half due to more minutes available because of the absence of Stinnett, he took full advantage of the opportunity. He played 12 minutes, shot 4-of-6 from the field, 2-of-4 from the three point line and helped lead the Bluejays in the first half with 10 points. He then hit another big three-pointer just after he entered the game in the second half to finish with 13 points and getting a season high 21 minutes. His energy off the bench sparked the Bluejays. Creighton has to love playing at Bradley. Last year it was Antoine Young who had a breakout game. Could it be the same for Josh Jones. We’ll have to see.
The Bluejays had opportunities to hit three-pointers. They did that tonight by hitting 12, just one off their season high against Houston Baptist. Jones hit 3, Darryl Ashford hit 3 and Ethan Wragge hit 3. They shot at almost 39% for the game from three compared to about 32% for the season. With the Braves almost always doubling the post every time the ball went inside, being able to hit shots from the outside was clutch.
The Bluejays had opportunities to score points. They scored 73 tonight and you know the thing about 70 points don’t you? Creighton has won the last 21 meetings when it scores 70 points or more against Bradley. Creighton also finished with 4 players in double-figures with Wragge almost joining them. They had not had four players in double-figures since the Houston Baptist game. That was a long time ago. Balanced scoring was great to see.
Finally the Bluejays had the opportunity to give the game away. Maybe it was Bradley’s cold shooting or maybe it was some tough defense, but either way, the Jays found a way to win the game. They kept Bradley from ever taking the lead in the game and kept Bradley from converting on several opportunities in the final minute to tie the game and to get over that hump. Although the defense wasn’t perfect, it was enough to gut out a win. It almost looked like the Bluejays of old out there where they were out-rebounded heavily. The final stats make the margin look better, but gave up 18 offensive rebounds to Bradley which turned into 22 second chance points. But a win is a win and tonight the Bluejays had just enough.
So as we reflect on the opportunites the Bluejays still have this season, they now sit in a big logjam tied for third in the conference, but stay in the upper half of the conference to better solidify their chances of not having to play on Thursday night in St. Louis. Now they get the opportunity to head to Drake on Saturday to see if they can put together another strong effort. If they can get the win on Saturday, although they have struggled this season, maybe they get that opportunity to be on TV again for Bracketbusters.
I’ve never been more excited about an 11-10 team in my life, but it will be a fun run to the finish line. Anything can happen in The Valley.