One burning controversy continued to hang around the Creighton basketball program two days after a big win over Marquette.
Did he or didn't he?
Late in the first half of the 67-49 win, Jahenns Manigat stepped in front of a pass for his team-leading 18th steal of the season. As he raced down the court, the 6-foot-1 Manigat did something he's never done in his four seasons as a Bluejay.
He dunked the basketball. Or at least that's what the official play-by-play says. Creighton coach Greg McDermott isn't quite so sure.
“I haven't actually watched it yet, but I think I'm going to need some high-quality, slow-motion video to see if his finger actually touched the rim,” said McDermott, trying to suppress a smile. “He's probably still one of the guys on the team that I can still beat in a dunk contest.”
Of course, Manigat claims there was no doubt that he had dunked the ball. When he tells his grandkids about it 30 years from now, he'll probably remember it as one of those monster jams that get guys on SportsCenter. For now, he's content knowing that he got up high enough to get his hand over the rim and drop the ball through the basket.
Manigat said adrenaline and the situation at the time probably spurred him to finish off his steal with a flourish.
“We were in a rut there, and I was just trying to get everyone energized,” Manigat said. “And I didn't want to regret it later by missing another fast-break layup.”
Manigat has missed a few of those in his career. Made his share, too, but it's those misfires that have become a running joke with his teammates.
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“If Jahenns has a breakaway, we make sure we follow it up for certain reasons,” forward Ethan Wragge said. “But he got up there on that one and flushed it.”
Manigat's dunk was one of the six baskets he scored in a 16-point performance in Creighton's Big East debut. He made 4 of his 9 3-point attempts, and tacked on six rebounds and six assists while playing a team-high 38 minutes.
The effort came on the heels of a 15-point night Manigat had in the Dec. 29 victory over Chicago State, when he made 5 of 7 3-point shots. He also had 10 points in the Dec. 8 win over Nebraska, and finished the recent five-game homestand averaging 11.2 points and 3.2 assists while shooting 52 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range.
His recent surge has boosted his season scoring average to a career-best 7.8 points per game. Manigat also is shooting a career-best 49.3 percent from the field, and his 24 3-point baskets rank third on the team behind Wragge's 50 and Doug McDermott's 33.
Manigat credits those two players for his recent success.
“Doug and Ethan do such a good job of attracting attention,” Manigat said. “Teams can't play off of them, and it's opening up driving lanes. I'm just trying to play within myself and guys are finding me at the right time.
“I'm relatively open when I take shots. I'm not the type of guy that is going to run up in transition and force one. If I keep playing within myself and playing within the strengths of this team, I'll be fine.”
Manigat will make his 100th consecutive start in Saturday's game at Seton Hall. There have been times over that span, especially when Creighton hasn't played well, that the chat-room coaches have questioned whether Manigat should be starting or playing as many minutes as he has.
The only coach that counts, though, has never lost faith in the Canadian's ability to contribute to the team.
“You need so many different pieces to the puzzle to make this thing work,” McDermott said. “If everybody needed the ball as much as Doug needed the ball, we wouldn't have a team that could function. Doug needs touches and when Doug gets touches, good things usually happen for our team and his teammates.
“But you need someone that takes on the challenge of defending the other team's best shooter and someone that makes sure that we have energy each day in practice. Jahenns has done that every single day, and he's never tried to be something he's not. He's taken the ability he's been blessed with and he's tried to maximize it the best he can.”
That's one reason McDermott was happy that Manigat had the kind of performance that he did against Marquette.
“He maybe doesn't get enough credit for what he brings to our team,” McDermott said. “His consistency, his energy, his effort and his communication has been there from day one.
“For him to be able to look back on a night like Tuesday for the rest of his life, it's very fitting that he would play well in that game.”
For his part, Manigat has tried to stay above the criticism of his playing abilities that he knows is out there in this day of social media and instant communication.
“I try not to look at stuff like that,” Manigat said. “And I think our team does a pretty good job of trying to stay away from what the outside world is saying about us. We understand who we are, and we understand why we're here.
“There's a reason why we've been chosen to be a part of this team. We are all confident in our abilities and that if we're having a bad night, the next guy will pick it up. Regardless of what other people say, I just try to maintain what I can do to make our team better. So far, it's worked out pretty well.”
His teammates definitely appreciate what Manigat brings to the table.
“Jahenns is not a negative guy, and when he doesn't play well, he's more upset about it than the fans are,” Wragge said. “If he goes 0 for 7 and we get a 20-point win, he's just as happy as if he goes 7 for 7 and we lose.
“It doesn't matter with him. He's all about the team, and he's always positive. It's fun to play with a guy like that.”
» NOTES: Creighton will practice Friday morning before leaving for New Jersey in the afternoon. With the forecast calling for 6 to 8 inches of snow in Newark, McDermott is a bit concerned about possible travel problems. “It sounds like they're going to get nailed pretty good with some weather out that way,” he said. ... Seton Hall leads the all-time series 6-1 but the teams have played just once in the past 62 years. The Pirates claimed a win over the Bluejays in the 1991 NCAA tournament. ... Saturday will match Creighton junior guard Devin Brooks against his high school coach. Oliver Antigua, who coached Brooks at St. Raymond's High in New York City, is now a Seton Hall assistant coach. ... Creighton is 2-0 in true road games this season and has won its last three dating back to last season. The Bluejays' three-game winning streak in true road games is tied for the nation's ninth-longest according to WarrenNolan.com, a website that follows college basketball.
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Video: See Manigat's dunk in slow-motion:
Video: See Jahenns Manigat explain his dunk:
Video: See Greg McDermott, Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Manigat preview Creighton's game at Seton Hall: