In life, things will not always be easy. For the Creighton Bluejays though, Friday night's game was the closest thing to it.
Despite the Alcorn State Braves hanging tough for a better part of the first half, Creighton pulled away thanks to a tremendous performance from their frontcourt, as the Bluejays upended the Braves 97-52 to earn their first victory of the 2013-14 season.
Will Artino started his first game at center in his collegiate career and he seemed to feel no pressure at all. Rarely tested, the sophomore from Waukee, Iowa scored 12 points on seven shots and collected four rebounds. Those four rebounds were just a sliver of the dominance that Creighton had on the glass and in the paint. They bested the Braves 40-14 in the paint and 43-24 in rebounds, with 10 of those 43 rebounds on the offensive end. The Bluejays made the most of those, scoring 14 second-chance points.
Will Artino was not the only big man to perform at a high level. Senior Doug McDermott, who was honored as the program's all-time leading scorer prior to the game, had an excellent start to the season in his own right. McDermott scored 20 points and picked up five rebounds, while shooting 53.8 percent from the field. McDermott was 2-for-3 from the perimeter and was sent to the free throw line numerous times in the first half. But the All-American made them pay, going 4-for-5 from the stripe. Freshman Zach Hanson also added to the frontcourt success, as the freshman scored nine points and added two rebounds.
What looked to be cause for concern in the backcourt merely turned out to be a mirage. The Creighton backcourt had themselves a heck of a night in Omaha. Starters Austin Chatman and Jahenns Manigat combined for 19 points, eight rebounds and nine assists on the evening. Manigat had 13 of those 19 points and shot 50 percent or better from both the field (4-7 FG) and from the perimeter (3-6 3 PT). Junior college transfer Devin Brooks added to the barrage with 15 points, five assists and six rebounds in his major college debut. Brooks' ability to get to the line was unmatched, as he took a game-high 10 attempts -- sinking nine of them.
Defensively, Creighton toughened up in the second half, when it became apparent that Alcorn State looked to be overmatched. Leantwan Luckett, Alcorn State's leading scorer, struggled all evening, scoring just seven points and just making three of his 11 attempts from the floor. He could not make one of his four attempts from the three-point line and, eventually, fouled out of the game. Senior Twann Oalkey and junior Octavious Brown led the way for the Braves with 16 points apiece.
In all, the Bluejays got contributions from 12 different players who put up at least two points, and five got into double figures. McDermott, Manigat, Artino, Brooks and Ethan Wragge, who scored 15 points and shot 80 percent from the three-point line, each netted double digits on the stat line.
Creighton will welcome the University of Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos to Omaha on Monday at 8:00 PM ET.