Leaving the tunnel on Saturday and being greeted by a sea of pink at the CenturyLink Center provided Creighton basketball players with a much different visual.
The Bluejays’ third “Pink Out” to raise awareness for cancer research and early detection drew a sellout crowd of 18,111. Most of the fans got into the spirit of the event, either wearing pink to the game or donning the free pink T-shirts provided to the first 14,000.
“It was awesome, and what’s best is that it is for such a good cause,” Creighton guard Jahenns Manigat said after the 75-58 win over Bradley. “We’re happy that we can raise money for the cause and that it’s going to go into good hands.
“This means a lot to us, and it’s fun to play in such an environment.”
The Bluejays wore special white uniforms trimmed in pink and blue, pink socks and pink shoes. They warmed up for the game wearing pink shooting tops. The tops were auctioned off last month and raised more than $24,000. Additional money was raised Saturday through donations from the fans attending the game.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott, whose wife, Theresa, is a breast cancer survivor, thanked everyone involved at the end of his postgame press conference. He noted the two corporate co-sponsors — Alegent Creighton Health and Methodist Easterbrook Cancer Center — are competitors in the health care field.
“That’s like a Ford dealer and a Chevy dealer throwing the logos on the back of a T-shirt,” McDermott said. “That doesn’t always happen, but it’s like they said, ‘We’re in this together and we’re trying to beat this disease.’ ”
The money the event raises is important, but McDermott put in a plug for early detection.
“It may have saved my wife’s life,” he said. “The raising the money is great, but people that reach the age where their doctors are telling them it’s time to get this checked or if something is out of the ordinary, you can’t put it off.
“That’s what we want to have come out of the day. We got to experience how important early detection is firsthand. We hope we can continue to get that message out.”
Braves surrender 3s to limit CU inside
Bradley coach Geno Ford’s defensive plan allowed Creighton to get numerous open 3-point shots. The Bluejays put up a season-high 31, including 21 in the first half when they made just seven.
The Braves played off the Creighton shooters in an attempt to protect the inside and make things more difficult for Doug McDermott and Gregory Echenique.
“We weren’t trying to leave guys wide open,” Ford said. “But we definitely were helping off certain guys and trying to make somebody else beat us. I thought in the first half that we were able to get them out of a little bit of a rhythm.
“It can be hard when you’re not being guarded like you’re used to. We were comfortable with (Austin) Chatman shooting it, and he had a great game. But any time he’s shooting, it means McDermott is not. That’s probably not the worst thing ever.”
Chatman takes advantage
Chatman, the Bluejays’ sophomore point guard, finished the game with a career-high 16 points. He made 6 of 11 shots, including a career-high four 3-point baskets in seven attempts.
Chatman said he often found himself wide open because his defender was leaving him to help on McDermott and Echenique.
“My man was doing a lot of the digging,” Chatman said. “I’ve been doing a lot of work with the coaches and staying after my shot. It’s paying off.”
Chatman had 10 assists in Creighton’s win over Missouri State on Wednesday but finished Saturday’s game with just two. Manigat and Grant Gibbs picked up the slack, recording six apiece, as the Bluejays had 20 assists on 28 baskets.
Manigat also had four rebounds and three steals to offset an off shooting game. He had made a team-high 57.6 percent of his 3-point tries in Missouri Valley games and made his first attempt Saturday. He then missed his last four.
“I’ve been trying to do more on the boards, and the assists that I had were just making the right reads and not trying to force anything,” Manigat said. “We really made a conscious effort of not turning the ball over today. All my assists today just came from making the right reads at the right time.”
Artino improving despite limited time
Creighton got a big lift in the second half from Will Artino, who scored five straight points. His three-point play gave the Bluejays their first seven-point lead. And after a Bradley basket, Artino scored again.
The 6-foot-11 sophomore finished with seven points and two rebounds in six minutes.
“Will has consistently gotten better throughout the year,” Greg McDermott said. “It isn’t that Will hasn’t improved, but for such a long time, Gregory, Doug and Ethan (Wragge) played so well that it was hard to find him minutes.
“It’s not about Will’s lack of development. He’s made some good strides, and he’s going to be a good player down the road for us. We’ll continue to use him down the stretch here.”
Bits and pieces
>> Bradley came into the game averaging more than 10 steals a game to rank fifth nationally. The Braves had just four on Saturday.
>> Creighton will learn at 5:30 p.m. Monday where it will play for the BracketBusters series on Feb. 22 or 23. The Bluejays are a designated road team this season, and could wind up with a game at Belmont or St. Mary’s.
>> The Bluejays have won 13 straight games against teams from the state of Illinois.
>> Doug McDermott’s 25 points pushed his career total to 1,933 and moved him into 18th on the Valley’s all-time scoring list. McDermott leads the nation this season in points (551) and field goals (191).
>> Gregory Echenique moved into a tie for third place on Creighton’s all-time blocked shots list with Kenny Lawson with 153.
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