When the rain falls, it's a beautiful thing. When those big drops fall down from the ceiling, Creighton basketball becomes a video game. Reset. Reload. Push the button. Fire away.
Ethan Wragge, Doug McDermott, Austin Chatman, Jahenns Manigat and Avery Dingman are rainmakers who make college hoops look easy.
But what happens when the rain won't fall?
Then you can have a muddy situation.
Bradley led the Jays 30-27 at the half on Saturday at the CenturyLink Center. That was a situation.
The Jays' rainmakers are a confident bunch. Sometimes too cocksure.
Creighton took 29 shots in the first half against the fifth-place Braves. Twenty-one of those were 3-pointers.
And CU made seven of them.
Time for a halftime strategy session.
“Coaches thought we were settling for too many 3s,” Wragge said.
So the first four Creighton offensive possessions of the second half were — wait for it — inside baskets by McDermott and center Gregory Echenique, with the help of some back screens that coach Greg McDermott drew up at halftime.
Situation solved. Creighton breezed on to a 75-58 win.
Of course, CU didn't go cold turkey. The Jays shot 10 3s in the second half. Made half.
For the day, the nation's leading 3-point shooting team (44.9 percent and 9.8 per game) clocked out with 31 3-point attempts, four shy of the school single-game record. It made 12.
That's how they rain, er, roll.
“With this team, it doesn't surprise me,” Doug McDermott said. “We like to shoot the 3s. That's our game.”
Silly question: Is that a good thing?
Silly, because this team isn't about to change its 3-point stripes. It's not about to get big and physical overnight.
It's not as if CU has a void in the paint. Echenique is a powerful target, when he gets the ball. McDermott is a magician around the baseline.
But the Jays are not a power team. They are a shooting team. They start outside and then inside, often using the bombs-away approach to soften up teams that clutter up the lane.
That was Bradley's tactic in the first half. BU stuffed the middle. Forward Tyshon Pickett had his arms draped on McDermott so much it looked like they were doing the tango.
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So the Jays' rainmakers were left open to make their rain. Huh?
It worked. For a half. Coach Mac put more emphasis on getting some inside looks in the second half. And off they went.
Twenty wins on Feb. 2 says it all. But at times, you watch this team and you wonder: How long can it last?
The rainmakers shoot quick. They shoot early. They shoot often. They shoot when they're open. They shoot when they're not.
At times, point guard Austin Chatman will drive to the hoop and, rather than continue to the basket and take a shot or get fouled, he'll kick it out for a long 3-pointer.
At times in the first half Saturday, the Jays didn't even bother driving to the hoop.
It's how this team was built. And there are two ways to look at it.
On one hand, the rainmakers are a godsend, opening the inside for a pair of big men who can overwhelm most Valley teams when they get the room — and the ball.
And there are so many rainmakers who can bring the rain. If one's having an off-night, chances are someone else will be hot. And if the cold guy keeps firing it up, chances are he'll heat up eventually.
That's how Coach McDermott plays it. And why not? He's got a deep offensive lineup that can overwhelm any team in the Valley.
“They were so open (in the first half),” McDermott said. “A lot of them weren't challenged at all. Those are shots that they're making 50 percent of the time all year long. You just can't stop shooting them.
“We're not blessed with guys who can get to the basket. We're going to space the floor, we're going to throw it inside, we're going to see what you can do defensively. It's our job as coaches to see what you (give up) and then exploit it.”
The rain really can be addictive. It electrifies the crowd. When the rain falls, the Jays look like they can play with anyone. But when the shots don't fall?
Can this Creighton team win a game on its defense, on physical play? Remember Wichita State (8 of 20 3s) and Drake (5 of 21)?
What if this happens when the competition gets a little stouter in the NCAA tourney?
But that's just it. Most mid-major teams aren't going to be as big or physical as major-conference clubs. The 3-pointer can not only be an equalizer, it can be an edge. Especially when so many can make it rain.
“Teams have to pick their poison,” Wragge said. “They have to decide what they're going to stop. We're a confident bunch. If we miss three in a row, we're still going to let that fourth one go.”
This is no time to stop. Creighton is in sole possession of first place in the Valley. Let it rain.
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