Creighton showed off its shooting touch Sunday in tuning up for the much-awaited start to conference play.
The Bluejays made 16 3-pointers and shot 64 percent from beyond the arc in posting a 90-58 victory against Chicago State in front of an announced sellout crowd of 17,466 at CenturyLink Center.
With 12½ minutes to play, Creighton had made 15 shots from beyond the arc and four inside of it. Such a disparity might make some coaches cringe, but not Greg McDermott.
“If you're going to give us an open 3-point shot, that's the best percentage shot we can get,” the CU coach said. “The numbers say we're going to make between 40 and 45 percent of those, and if you do the math, that's a little over 12 points for every 10 possessions.
“That's good enough to win a lot of basketball games. If we can get the guys we want shooting it loose, they have the green light. Always have, and they always will.”
Three Bluejays — Doug McDermott, Jahenns Manigat and Ethan Wragge — combined to make 14 3-pointers. McDermott hit his first four attempts on the way to a 24-point performance that pushed him over the 2,500-point plateau for his career.
Those four baskets came in the first 5½ minutes of the game. Manigat tied his career high for 3-pointers in a game by making 5 of 7 from beyond the arc, with four also coming in the first half as the Bluejays took a 45-38 lead at the break.
Wragge made his first shot less than a minute into the game before foul trouble sidelined him for 14 minutes of the first half. He got hot from outside the arc early in the second half, making four straight shots in a six-possession span.
That spree built Creighton's lead from 50-41 to 62-44 with 12:37 to play. At that point, with 15 3-pointers in the book, the only drama remaining was whether Creighton would challenge the school record of 20 3-pointers in a game.
They didn't, as the Bluejays took two more shots from beyond the arc. Wragge finally missed one but Isaiah Zierden converted a late attempt as the 16 tied for the second-highest, single-game total in school history.
“We still try to play inside-out to spread the floor for our shooters,” Doug McDermott said. “But if we have it going like we did tonight, we'll continue to go with the hot hands.”
Manigat and Wragge each finished with 15 points as Creighton won its fifth straight in improving to 10-2 heading into Tuesday night's Big East opener against Marquette.
“This is what we've all been waiting for, the fans, the players and the coaches,” Doug McDermott said. “This is the one to get started off on the right track. Marquette is one of the better teams in the league, and it's going to be a huge challenge.
“I expect a Wichita State-type atmosphere here on Tuesday night.”
Creighton defeated the Shockers in the final regular-season game last season to win its last Missouri Valley Conference title. The atmosphere at the arena that afternoon is considered the best it's been in the building that opened in 2003.
Things were a bit more subdued Sunday, especially when Chicago State used some salty 3-point shooting of its own to hang in the game for the first 25 minutes. The Cougars made 7 of 14 shots from beyond the arc in the first half, including a couple of long-range bombs by Quinton Pippen.
Chicago State, which was led by Clarke Rosenberg's 14 points, was still down nine with 16 minutes to play before Wragge broke things open with his run of four straight 3-pointers.
“We knew this would be the best team we played all year,” said Chicago State coach Tracy Dildy, whose team dropped to 5-8. “We knew this is the best shooting team in the country. If there's another team that shoots the ball like these guys shoot it, I would love to see that team.
“This was going to be a tough task for us. Our whole thing was that we wanted to come out here and compete. Our guys did compete. The score might not say it but they did compete.”
What the Cougars couldn't do is keep up with the Bluejays when Creighton turned it up on the defensive end in the second half. Chicago State made six field goals and shot 28.6 percent from the field in scoring 20 points in the final 20 minutes.
“Defense was the point of emphasis at halftime,” Wragge said. “That's not how we can play in the first half. We came out a little sluggish and weren't executing. We have to be more locked into our scouting report and know what certain guys are going to do.
“We have to be ready to crank it up defensively at the start of the game.”
The Cougars became the eighth team Creighton has held this season below 40 percent from the field. Chicago State made 38 percent of its field goals, while Creighton, which finished the game with 11 2-point baskets on 23 attempts, shot 56.3 percent.
The Bluejays also held a 35-22 rebounding advantage and, despite their reliance on the outside shot, finished with a 22-12 edge in points in the paint.
Overall, it was a solid performance to build on heading into conference play.
“I was scared to death of this game, partly because Chicago State is better than its record might indicate and also the time that it took place with the opening of Big East play right around the corner,” Greg McDermott said. “I was proud that we came out the second half and defended with a little more urgency.
“It was good to shoot the ball well — I hope we saved a few for Tuesday — but we had a lot of guys clicking on all cylinders shooting the basketball tonight.”
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>> Video: See highlights from Creighton's win over Chicago State:
>> Video: See Creighton's press conference following the win: