Creighton coach Greg McDermott can empathize with what his Georgetown counterpart, John Thompson III, is going through these days.
Saturday's 76-63 loss to the Bluejays was the Hoyas' fourth straight, dropping them to 11-8 and 3-5 in the Big East. Georgetown has played its past five games without Jabril Trawick, their best perimeter defender who is sidelined with a broken jaw. The Hoyas will play the rest of the season without center Joshua Smith, who is academically ineligible.
“We were trying to get the pace going because his (Thompson's) hands are tied a little bit from a depth standpoint,” McDermott said. “But you can see them getting better every game as he tries to adjust guys into new roles.
“We've had to do it with Grant Gibbs' injury. I thought his guys really competed tonight. They executed the things they wanted to execute, but when we were able to get that tempo going late in the first half, that was really important for us.”
Creighton closed the first half by scoring on 13 of its final 14 possessions in building a 34-24 halftime lead. The Hoyas had done a good job early in the game controlling the tempo, but the Bluejays' ability to get tougher on the boards and on defense allowed them to jump-start their transition offense.
Afterward, Thompson sounded like a coach who knows he's pedaling uphill against the wind.
“We're in a bad place, and we have to figure out how to get out of this bad place,” Thompson said. “We're not at the halfway point of the conference season yet, so there's time.
“We have to figure out adjustments, changes, some big, some small. We're a different team now having lost two starters than we were 10 days or two weeks ago. It's hard to plan for that at midseason, but we're going to figure it out. We have to figure it out together. It can't be a bunch of people trying to do it individually.”
Artino shines off bench
Will Artino came off the bench to score 14 points and provide Creighton with advantages in two key statistical categories. First, he grabbed five rebounds as the Bluejays finished with a 39-31 edge on the boards.
Artino and Devin Brooks, who finished with 11 points, allowed Creighton to build a 25-2 edge in bench scoring.
The 6-foot-11 Artino started Creighton's first seven games before McDermott decided to move Ethan Wragge into the lineup. Artino's ability to handle the change, both when it happened and as Creighton has continued through its season, has been vital, McDermott said.
“Some guys are just more comfortable coming off the bench,” McDermott said. “We were asking Will to do something he's never done before at the college level. Not that he was doing a bad job of it. He didn't.
“But Ethan is one of our best players, and we just felt we needed him on the floor to start games. Fortunately, Will embraced the role we asked him to play. He continues to bring energy and enthusiasm and effort to every minute he's on the floor. His energy and ability to make some plays was huge tonight.”
In the pink
It's not surprising that a record crowd of 18,859 turned out for the game. Creighton fans have been waiting for a chance to play an elite program such as Georgetown's since it was announced last spring that the Bluejays were moving to the new conference.
The players knew this one was special, but tried to maintain a business-as-usual approach.
“To win this one is great because wins aren't easy to come by in conference play,” Creighton forward Doug McDermott said. “To say we're 7-1, we would have taken that at the start of the year. But this team does a great job of not dwelling on past games, and we're going to flip the page.”
Creighton, which maintained its half-game lead on second-place Villanova in the Big East standings, will close out its first half of league play Tuesday at home against St. John's. The Bluejays then will get a break: Their next game won't be until Feb. 7 against DePaul.
“We'll get some time off and then prepare for the second half of conference play,” McDermott said.
'Incredible, incredible sight'
Greg McDermott praised the crowd, both for its numbers and the support it helped give the annual Pink-Out game that was a part of the third “Creighton vs. Cancer” promotion.
A pregame auction of players' jerseys raised more than $48,000. Fans also could donate at the door on Saturday night, although a Creighton official said it was uncertain how much additional money was raised.
“With all the pink, it was an incredible, incredible sight,” said Greg McDermott, whose wife, Theresa, is a breast cancer survivor. “Words can't express how much I appreciate the way our fan base and this community has jumped aboard this event.
“It means a great deal to our family because it's near and dear to our heart because we've been there and done it. If one person realizes it's time for a checkup and the cancer is caught early, then everything we did tonight is worth it. Obviously, we raised some funds, but the attention we've brought to early detection was an incredible message tonight.”
The jersey auctions the past three years have raised more than $93,000.
Bits and pieces
» Creighton forward Ethan Wragge was recognized before the game for becoming the latest member of Creighton's 1,000-point club. Wragge reached the milestone in the Jan. 18 road loss at Providence. Greg McDermott presented him with a commemorative basketball before the game. The 12 points Wragge scored Saturday raised his career total to 1,039 and moved him into 32nd place on Creighton's all-time chart.
» The crowd Saturday was 124 more than the previous record turnout for a 2012 game against Wichita State.
» Austin Chatman had seven assists as he became the 13th player in program history to record 300 for his career. The junior reached the mark in his 91st game, faster than all but six players in Creighton history.
» Doug McDermott's 10 rebounds pushed his career total to 988 and moved him past Bob Portman into fourth place on the all-time chart ... McDermott's 14-point, 10-rebound performance was the 34th double-double of his career. He moved into 21st place on the NCAA's all-time scoring chart with 2,702 points.
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Video: Creighton-Georgetown game highlights:
Video: CU coach Greg McDermott postgame:
Video: Georgetown coach John Thompson III postgame: