BERKELEY, Calif. -- California’s defensive strategy against Creighton on Saturday failed on a couple of levels.
First, the Golden Bears tried not to let Doug McDermott beat them single-handedly. They played off of his teammates to try to provide help but McDermott scored 34 points in the 74-64 victory at Haas Pavilion.
Given room to maneuver, Jahenns Manigat scored a season-high 11 points and Grant Gibbs had 10, eight of which came in the second half. Austin Chatman also could have had a big night but he struggled shooting the basketball, going 3 of 13 from the field in finishing with seven points.
"Whenver teams pay too much attention to Doug,'' Manigat said, "it's our jobs to make them pay.''
Creighton coach Doug McDermott said California used a defensive plan similar to Boise State, which handed Creighton its lone loss in a Nov. 28 game.
He was especially pleased with the way Gibbs responded after a halftime chat.
"I talked to him at halftime, and reminded him that he had shot real well at our shoot-around today,'' McDermott said. "I told him he didn’t’ make 30 or 40 3s there to turn those down when they’re backing off you.
"Our guys are good shooters and they do a good job of picking their their spots. It’s just that they’re so unselfish that they want to make sure we get a touch inside before they shoot it.’’
Doug McDermott said his teammates’ ability to step up and make shots increased his effectiveness. Not that the 6-foot-8 junior needs much help, California coach Mike Montgomery said.
“He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, and he doesn’t miss a lot of shots,’’ Montgomery said. “It was a hard match-up, and we knew it was going to be a hard match-up for any of our bigs.
“We went small so that we weren’t trying to guard McDermott with a four (man). It was a problem.’’
McDerrmott made 10 of 17 shots from the field, including 4 of 6 3-point attempts. He has now made 21 of his last 30 shots (70 percent) from beyond the arc.
McDermott also made all 10 of his free-throw attempts. Three California players fouled out.
“I thought they protected him a little bit early on,’’ Montgomery said, “but it probably balanced out.’’
Starters see extra time
All five Creighton starters each played a minimum of 30 minutes. Gibbs logged a team-high 36 minutes, while McDermott and Chatman each played 33, Manigat 32 and Gregory Echenique 30.
Greg McDermott has shortened his rotation in the three games that Josh Jones dropped out of the rotation because of a heart problem. Gibbs, Chatman and Doug McDermott each have played more than 30 minutes in each game.
Greg McDermott said Creighton's schedule has figured into some of his recent thinking on playing time. Creighton had five days in between Sunday’s game against Akron and Saturday’s contest. The Bluejays will play Wednesday at home against Tulsa, then have a 10-day break before opening Missouri Valley play on Dec. 29.
“We also were able to take advantage of the spacing of the timeouts tonight,’’ the coach said.
Doug McDermott came out of the game with 5:28 to play when California called a timeout. The under-eight-minute timeout then came with 4:11 to play, and McDermott returned when Creighton called a timeout with 2:45 to play.
Although he was out of the game for just 2:43 on the game clock, he picked up about five minutes of rest in that one stretch.
“He got to sit a long time and didn’t miss much game time,’’ Greg McDermott said. “As coaches, we have to manage that as best we can. And guys have to be honest with us. When they need a break, we have to give them a break.’’
Bluejays bench struggles
Creighton’s reserves had outscored their counterparts by 128 points coming into Saturday’s game. The Golden Bears finished the game with a 16-2 edge in bench scoring.
Forward Ethan Wragge played 18 minutes and scored the two points on free throws. He was 0 for 6 from the field, while Avery Dingman went 0 for 3 in the 13 minutes he played. Will Artino and Andre Yates did not attempt a shot in the total of five minutes in which they played.
“Ethan will be fine,’’ Greg McDermott said. “He just missed some decent looks but he had five rebounds in the first half and played some good defense. Avery played some good defense.
“All of our guys know how important they are and how much we’re going to need them.’’
CU fans show support in California
Creighton fans probably made up a tenth of the crowd of 8,116 that turned out for the game. The Bluejays received a loud ovation as they left the court after the game.
“This just shows that Creighton nation is the best fan base in the country,’’ Manigat said. “Obviously, I’m a little biased but we’ve seen our fans travel all over to give us support.
“We have an incredible fan base and we’re blessed to play here. Any time you can go on the road and have a decent amount of fans show up, we have to give it back to them. Our fans are the greatest.’’
Jones had planned to make the trip to California with the team but remained in Omaha because his aunt passed away. Doug Ramos, Creighton’s team physician, said Jones has not experienced any additional issues with his heart. … Doug McDermott has scored 114 points in his past four games and has moved into 51st on the Valley’s career scoring chart in less than 2 ½ seasons. … McDermott’s 18 first-half points marked the five time in 11 games this season he has scored 18 or more before the break. … California outrebounded Creighton 53-38 and committed just eight turnovers. “If you look at it statistically, other than the fact that we couldn’t shoot the ball, there weren’t many glaring errors,’’ Montgomery said. The Golden Bears missed 51 shots from the field, went 3 of 17 from 3-point range and converted just 7 of 13 3-point attempts. … Creighton never trailed in the game.