OMAHA, Neb. -- No. 21 Creighton certainly didn't look like the nation's best 3-point shooting team in the first half against Bradley.
Coach Greg McDermott implored his players to try first to score inside after halftime, and that strategy swung the momentum the Bluejays' way and led to a 75-58 victory Saturday."The first half Bradley did a great job of muddying stuff up inside and coming at us with double teams," McDermott said. "Normally when teams do that to us, we have a way of making them pay with our ability to shoot from the 3-point line. They just didn't go in."The Bluejays trailed by three points at half after launching 21 of their first 29 shots from 3-point range and connecting on seven.Creighton scored its first four baskets of the second half in the paint to turn a 30-27 deficit into a 35-30 lead."That's kind of been our bread-and-butter all year, playing inside-out basketball," said Doug McDermott, who scored 25 points.The Braves closed within a point twice before Creighton went on a decisive 12-0 run, with McDermott scoring the last nine points.The Bluejays (20-3, 9-2 Missouri Valley Conference), who have won 15 straight over Bradley at home, hit the 20-win mark for the 14th time in 15 seasons. Bradley (13-10, 5-6) lost its fifth straight road game and eighth in a row against a ranked opponent.McDermott and Jahenns Manigat made 3s to start the game and get the Bluejays out to a quick lead. But they suddenly went cold from beyond the arc, and the Braves were able to stay close. Tyshon Pickett scored five of his 11 points during a 9-2 run that gave Bradley its three-point lead at the break."The second half we wanted to get an inside touch first, whether it was off the drive or the pass into the post," Greg McDermott said. "We just wanted to try to establish something in there. I thought Doug and Gregory (Echenique) worked a little harder the second half to demand the ball, especially at the start."Manigat found McDermott alone underneath for an easy two points before Echenique hit a short left-handed hook to start Creighton's 8-0 flurry to start the second half. After the Bluejays missed a couple 3s, Echenique took an entry pass for a third-chance bucket. Then Grant Gibbs threaded the ball into the lane to McDermott, who converted for an easy basket."I feel like those four possessions we were trying to get it all back, playing hero ball," said Dyricus Simms-Edwards, who led Bradley with 18 points. "We told ourselves a lot that they're going to make a run. We have to stick to what we do, get the ball moving and keep them off offense."Austin Chatman, who had 16 points, drilled a 3-pointer after Bradley had closed to 53-48. Then McDermott went to work, hitting a 3, a layup and four straight free throws to make it 65-48 with 5 minutes to play.The Bluejays shot 69.2 percent after half and finished with a 33-24 advantage on the boards after outrebounding the Braves 18-4 the final 20 minutes.Echenique had eight of his 10 points in the second half, and he blocked three shots.
The Bluejays, shooting a nation-leading 45 percent on 3s coming into the game, made 15 of 28 from long range against Missouri State on Wednesday. Greg McDermott said he didn't want his shooters to shut down when they started struggling Saturday."I'm not going to tell Ethan Wragge not to shoot, Jahenns Manigat and Doug and guys that have shot the ball over the test of time at almost a 50-percent clip for their careers," the coach said. "When they've got rhythm 3s with nobody on their side of the floor, they've got to let it fly."Doug McDermott said: "Our shooters have short memories. Ethan, Jahenns, myself, we're all looking to the next shot, not thinking about the last shot we took."The Bluejays didn't hesitate to shoot more 3s once they took control. Wragge and Chatman hit a couple in a row before McDermott struck from long range to start his 9-0 run that all but finished off the Braves.Creighton wore jerseys with pink trim and pink shoes as part of its third annual Creighton vs. Cancer Pink Out, and the first 14,000 fans received pink T-shirts. A jersey auction raised $24,444, with $5,002 bid for McDermott's No. 3.