Right from the opening tip-off, the 18,525 who jam-packed CenturyLink Center Omaha were loud, raucous and raving. Donned in their alternate grey jerseys, the Creighton Bluejays were more than willing to begin a new journey in a new conference against an unfamiliar opponent.
In their first meeting since 1998, Creighton took home their eleventh victory of the season, winning 67-49 over the Marquette Golden Eagles, whose struggles continued as they suffered their sixth loss on the young season.
The focus going into the season was supposed to be on superstar forward Doug McDermott. At the outset, it appeared that those convictions were going to be correct. McDermott opened up the scoring with a 3-pointer and kept things going a few minutes later with a layup, holding onto Creighton's first five points. But, a player whose roots come from The Great White North wound up stealing the show instead. While Doug McDermott's 19 points and seven rebounds made for yet another great performance this season, it was Jahenns Manigat who may have wound up with the more impressive line.
Manigat, a senior guard from Ottawa, Ontario, finishedTuesday night's affair with 16 points, six rebounds and six assists. His efficiency was far from in question either, shooting 50 percent from the field on 12 attempts, and 44.4 percent from the 3-point line on nine attempts. Those 16 points, six rebounds, and six assists were all season-high marks. The Bluejays have proven this season that while McDermott is the focal point of the offense, they will usually need one or two players to rise up to help pave the way for successful nights on the court. On New Year's Eve, Manigat certainly rose to the occasion in Omaha.
Elsewhere, the Bluejays found strong showings from Ethan Wragge, Devin Brooks and Avery Dingman. Wragge once again found his stroke from the 3-point line, going 4-9 from the perimeter for 12 points, and additionally picked up four rebounds. Devin Brooks, who has had his recent struggles after starting off the season so well had a terrific night. The JUCO transfer from Harlem, N.Y. scored nine points and collected six rebounds. The nine points were the highest total he has had since scoring eight against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 17. Lastly, while Avery Dingman did not score a point against Marquette, the Bluejays were a +16 on while he was on the floor, adding a strong defensive presence.
Going into the game it was clear that Creighton had to do what they could to get through Marquette's tough defense, and stop Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson from getting it going. Despite playing hurt, Wilson played well, scoring 10 points and grabbing eight rebounds as well. But, Davante Gardner on the other hand had a very rough night on the floor. Gardner scored just four points, taking two shots and grabbed only two rebounds and played only 16 minutes despite not being near any foul trouble.
The Bluejays adjusted very well defensively despite both teams doing well from the get-go, but Creighton's offense was just too potent for the Golden Eagles to handle. Marquette was held under their road-game average of 71.7 points per game and that average will only shrink after not even reaching the 50-point threshold Tuesday evening. Marquette's struggles are perhaps the most shocking of any performance thus far in the BIG EAST Conference, and especially large for a team who was picked to win the conference in the preseason.
In a game that the they had to perform well in to start to get adjusted to their new conference, Creighton responded marvelously. While they played far from a perfect game, with the Golden Eagle defense holding them to just 40.3 percent shooting from the floor and merely 37.1 percent from the 3-point line, the Bluejays should be extremely pleased and enthused with their performance against the defensive-minded Golden Eagles.
For Marquette, this is yet another tough loss against tough competition, and these two teams could very well be headed in different directions.
Creighton must now shift gears and look ahead to Saturday, Jan. 4. The Bluejays will take flight to the Garden State to take on the Seton Hall Pirates, who are fresh off of a 2OT victory over the Providence Friars on Tuesday afternoon. They will tip off at 3:00 PM ET in the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. on FOX Sports 1.
Grading the Bluejays
|Doug McDermott||B+||19 points and seven rebounds is just right around normal for McDermott. He was held to under 20 points for just the second time all season but still provided the right enough output on offense to push Creighton over the top. Just another night on the court.|
|Jahenns Manigat||A||An awesome performance from Manigat who gets the proverbial "game ball" from me tonight. Manigat put up season-high totals in points, rebounds, and assists and had an efficient enough night from the floor.|
|Austin Chatman||C+||Chatman's three points, five rebounds, and five assists were enough for a solid night from the field. But, he was 1-6 from the field, including 1-4 from the 3-point line, and picked up four personal fouls. It is tough to ignore that, but, Chatman can easily get past it this Saturday against Seton Hall.|
|Grant Gibbs||B||The typical night from Gibbs, with four points, four rebounds and four assists. The three personal fouls were glaring but certainly not enough for him to be graded any lower. Just what we have come to expect from GIbbs, at this point.|
|Ethan Wragge||B||While he was not nearly as efficient as he was two nights ago against Chicago St., it is clear that Wragge put his short streak of struggles behind him with his 12-point outburst on Tuesday night. Wragge continues to be a very good shooter from 3, and Greg McDermott's decision to start him is paying dividends.|
|Devin Brooks||B||Welcome back, Devin Brooks. Nine points, six rebounds and two assists gets Brooks back on the bright side of the sun. His efficiency could have been better, with those nine points coming on eight shots, but this was very much a positive step in the right direction.|
|Will Artino||C+||Artino dipped from his recent stretch of play off the bench, and you could most likely attribute that to Marquette's interior defense. He scored only four points and grabbed only one rebound.|
|Avery Dingman||B||Cannot necessarily reward him for going 0-4 from the field, but you cannot punish his defensive efforts. When Dingman was on the floor, the Bluejays were +16.|
|Greg McDermott||A||A sensational coaching effort from McDermott who never wavered and it was clear that he did not let the bright lights of the BIG EAST Conference. We will see what McDermott & Co. has going for them when the Bluejays start to take to the road.|