It was a stupendous week to be the Creighton Bluejays.
Off the heels of a 1-2 performance in the Wooden Legacy Tournament, Greg McDermott's squad stayed out in the Golden State for a game against the 1-7 Long Beach State 49ers on Tues., Dec. 3. After that, the Bluejays were set to battle with their fellow Cornhusker State natives, the 6-2 Nebraska Cornhuskers on Sun., Dec. 8.
Those two games brought out the best that Bluejays fans could have asked for this season. They took down the Long Beach State 49ers by the tune of 78-61 and followed that performance up with a stellar effort against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, earning an 82-67 victory to successfully bounce back from a disappointing weekend in southern California.
In both games, it was clear that the Bluejays got by with superb efficiency. Against Long Beach St., Creighton shot an Effective FG% of 55.8. Against Nebraska, they shot an Effective FG% of 59.1. Just how spectacular are those numbers? When looking at those numbers, it should be noted that the current Division 1 average for Effective FG% is 49.4. So against the 49ers, Creighton shot 6.4 percent above the D-1 average, and against the Cornhuskers, the Bluejays shot an incredible 9.7 percent above the D-1 average.
Another reason that the Bluejays performed so well in the last week was their ability to shoot from the perimeter. Currently, the Bluejays rank fifth in the country in 3 PT FG%, shooting 44.2 percent as a team. Both performances against Long Beach St. and Nebraska were two very good performances, especially their performance in Long Beach. Against the 49ers, as a team Creighton shot 51.9 percent from the arc (14-27 3 PT FG) and against the Huskers, the team was slightly more inefficient, shooting 37.9 percent from the arc (11-29 3 PT FG). With that said, the Bluejays were still way above the D-1 average of 33.9 percent from the perimeter.
There is no denying who the star player is for the Creighton Bluejays. But, there has been a player that has come on as of late, and has been a big reason that Creighton is winning games, and has become so deadly from the 3-point line. His name is Ethan Wragge. The senior forward from Eden Prairie, MN shot his way into the starting lineup, replacing the struggling big man, Will Artino. Wragge responded to his newly appointed role in style, scoring 15 and 16 points respectively on a combined 50 percent shooting from the 3-point line (9-18 3 PT FG).
As for Doug McDermott, the walk-on forward celebrated BIG EAST Player of the Week honors for the third time in the last four weeks. McDermott was sensational in the Bluejays' games against the 49ers and the Cornhuskers, scoring 21 and 33 points in those two one-sided contests. The senior from Ames, Ia. was rarely challenged and was incredibly inefficient after arguably his worst game this season against the George Washington Colonials. He shot exactly 50 percent from the field (17-34 FG) and was superb from the arc, shooting a combined 53.8 percent on 3-point attempts (7-13 3 PT FG).
The play of Grant Gibbs has helped the Bluejays ascend as well. Gibbs struggled some to start the year, as he looked to find his role in the offense. But lately, Gibbs has fared much better. While he did not score any points against the 49ers and left the game early with injury, playing just 13 minutes, he performed well against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He scored eight, dished out eight assists, grabbed two rebounds, and came away with a block and a steal in 33 minutes and shot 60 percent from the field (3-5 FG). As it has been written, if Gibbs plays at this level, the Bluejays are a tough team to beat.
The bench play was justifiably criticized for their performances in the Wooden Legacy Tournament. In the two ensuing games, they responded favorably. With Ethan Wragge transitioning to the starting role, the Bluejays had to get output from their role players and most played well, especially against Long Beach St. The Bluejay bench scored 37 points, with 13 of those 37 coming from Will Artino who responded very well to his new role. Additionally, Isaiah Zierden broke out for a 12-point barrage, thanks in part to four made 3-point field goals, and Devin Brooks rebounded off of a tough weekend in Fullerton with a six point performance. The starters were the story against the Cornhuskers, but Artino played well in the chunk of minutes he played, and most played good enough defense to get by.
Creighton has been gifted a week off, and will not play until the 17th when they meet the Arkansas Pine-Bluff Golden Lions, but it certainly goes without saying that these two performances rank as some of the best we have seen in this 2013-14 campaign thus far.