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Morning After: Bluejays 107, Alcorn State 61

[Box Score]

Key Stats: Creighton commits just six turnovers, with three of them coming on offensive fouls, and scores 33 points off 18 Alcorn State turnovers. The Bluejays outrebound Alcorn State 45-26. Doug McDermott plays just 20 minutes due to foul trouble, yet still manages to score 20 points.

Favorite Moment: With 9:32 to play in the first half, Alcorn State improbably took a 23-22 lead. Instead of calling timeout to regroup, as so many coaches like to do, Greg McDermott trusted his senior-laden team to figure it out on their own. They responded with a blistering 16-0 run over three-and-a-half minutes, highlighted by a steal from Austin Chatman, who dished to Doug McDermott on a fast break; McDermott missed but Will Artino was following and tipped the misfire back into the hoop. It was the deciding sequence of the game, as Alcorn State was never closer than nine points the rest of the way.

500-ish Word Recap: While fellow Big East schools were playing challenging opponents on opening night (Georgetown vs Oregon, St. John’s vs Wisconsin, Providence vs Boston College, et al), Creighton hosted the SWACtastic Alcorn State Braves. They certainly weren’t alone in that philosophy — Marquette and Villanova played cupcakes on Friday too — but Creighton was the only one to win running away. The Golden Eagles struggled against Southern and barely won, 63-56, and Villanova had difficulty with Lafayette before pulling away late for a 75-59 win.

The 2013-14 Bluejays made a heckuva first impression, scoring 107 points to break the school record for most points scored in an opening game, a record held by the 2002-03 squad which also knew a thing or two about scoring in bunches. It was close for the first ten minutes of the game, although that’s understandable due to the fact that none of Creighton’s players or coaches had seen a second of gamefilm of the Alcorn State team — the only tapes available were from last season, and just one player among their top contributors remains from that team.

The combination of Creighton adjusting on the fly to Alcorn State’s personnel and schemes, and Creighton’s overwhelming depth, were way too much for the Braves the longer the game went. From the 9:32 mark when Alcorn State briefly led 23-22 until the final horn, Creighton outscored them 85-38, which is, simply put, absurd.

Two separate 16-0 runs, one in each half, helped the Jays pile on. The first took the Jays from a 23-22 deficit to a 38-23 lead; the second came early in the second half with CU up 61-40. Over the next seven minutes, they’d grow that lead to 77-40, thanks in large part to six — yes, six — steals.

All of this despite only getting 20 minutes from Doug McDermott, who played just three minutes in the second half thanks to picking up two quick fouls in the opening moments after halftime. If it’s possible to have a frustrating night and still score 20, this was it. He was “only” 7-13 from the field, and two of his four fouls were offensive.

His supporting cast remains impressive, which is no surprise to CU fans, but might be to fans of other Big East schools who only know about Doug. The rest of the starting five:

  • Will Artino played 15 minutes in the post, and scored 12 points on 5-7 shooting with 4 rebounds. Most impressively, he had zero fouls; Artino has said this offseason that his foul trouble last year had much to do with his role on the team as an aggressive energy guy off the bench. After seeing his efficient, foul-free defense Friday night, I’m inclined to believe him.
  • Grant Gibbs played 18 minutes and had five assists and three steals. In other words, Grant Gibbs doing Grant Gibbs Things.
  • Austin Chatman played 20 minutes with five assists, five rebounds and two steals, continuing his stellar, steady play at the point.
  • Jahenns Manigat had 13 points, four assists, two steals, and three boards, and played outstanding defense — he emerged as Creighton’s best on-and-off ball defender a year ago, and appears to have taken another giant leap forward this offseason. He’s both quicker and stronger.

Off the bench, Devin Brooks had 15 points thanks to 9-10 shooting at the free throw line, and added five assists, six rebounds — four of them offensive — and just one turnover. Ethan Wragge also had 15 points, going 4-5 from downtown with six rebounds and two assists. And freshman Zach Hanson, playing 11 minutes, demonstrated why the staff opted not to redshirt him. Among his three baskets were two nifty post moves to create shots, and every single time down the floor he was able to seal his defender to get himself in position to receive the ball, something many freshmen centers struggle with.

This is more than just the Doug McDermott Show. Creighton fans already knew that; the rest of the Big East found out Friday night.

Quotables:

“I was extremely pleased defensively, especially to start the second half. I think they scored on three of their first 20 possessions, and they were obviously scoring at a bit higher rate than that to start the game.” -Coach Greg McDermott in postgame press conference

(On the rules changes) “It’s a different game. Our fans have to get used to it, our players and coaches have to get used to it, and frankly, for the referees there’s a learning curve there too. You’re going to give up some things that look like you’re not engaged defensively because you’re so worried about those fouls adding up. I thought our guys did a good job not fouling to start the second half while still getting in position to challenge shots.” -Coach Greg McDermott in postgame press conference

“The foul trouble…I was definitely not happy about that. I was just trying to be aggressive out there and some things didn’t go my way. But we still won by what, 45 or whatever it was? So I thought we played pretty well. I’m satisfied with it.” -Doug McDermott on 1620’s Overtime Postgame Show

“For these refs, the rule changes are new to them, too. They have to adjust, too. They’re so used to calling charges and blocks the way they’ve been taught, that it will be a tough adjustment for them. We’re going to continue to do what we’ve practiced and be aggressive, though.” -Doug McDermott on 1620’s Overtime Postgame Show

“I thought we were a little sloppy in the exhibition game, but tonight we were really crisp. In the first half, we allowed 36 points but in the second half we did a really good job. Everyone guarded the ball well, and we were really unselfish offensively. I think we only had like five turnovers and 26 assists or something, so that’s really good to see.” -Doug McDermott on 1620’s Overtime Postgame Show

(On Devin Brooks) “You don’t always know where the ball’s going to go, but he finds a way to make something good happen. He’s something different that we haven’t seen here in awhile. It’s really exciting to have a guy on the floor that can make so much happen on his own.” -Doug McDermott on 1620’s Overtime Postgame Show

(On the other newcomers) “Isaiah played a little too fast, I think. He needs to slow down a bit because he can help us so much with the way he can shoot it. I think Zach will be good, and especially against more physical posts he’ll really be able to help us.” -Doug McDermott on 1620’s Overtime Postgame Show

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