Grant Gibbs didn't miss a beat.
Playing for the first time in the month, the Creighton senior contributed eight assists, seven points and five rebounds Friday night to the Bluejays' 78-66 victory over DePaul.
“He was huge,” Creighton forward Doug McDermott said. “Grant came in and did what Grant does. He made some great passes that got me to the rim a couple of times. It's great to have him back out on the floor.”
Gibbs suffered a dislocated kneecap the last time Creighton played DePaul in a Jan. 7 game in Chicago. He returned to full-go practicing this week, and said he came out of Friday's game feeling good.
He played 21 minutes, perhaps a few more than anticipated. Creighton was without junior guard Devin Brooks, who was ill. The Bluejays also ran into some foul trouble when Jahenns Manigat and Avery Dingman each picked up a third foul early in the second half.
“My plan going in was to have him play three, three-minute segments each half,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It was all dependent on how he did when he got out there.”
Two of Gibbs' assists came soon after he entered the game as he and McDermott hooked up for a layup and a 3-pointer. The chemistry the two players have built over the past three seasons is well documented.
“The last four weeks haven't affected what we've been able to do the last three years,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs received a loud ovation when he entered the game three minutes into the first half. He said it was nice to get that kind of reception, and he said he wasn't only surprised by the number of minutes he played against the Blue Demons.
“I kind of thought it would be about my effectiveness,” he said. “If I wasn't playing well and I was hurting us, then I wasn't going to play a whole lot. I got into the flow early, made some plays that I'm used to making and that's kind of how it went.”
DePaul is demon on boards
DePaul relied on its rebounding to help claw its way back into the game, taking advantage of second-chance opportunities to trim what had been a 14-point deficit in the first half to one point on twice in the second.
The Blue Demons finished with a 41-31 rebounding advantage. The 10-rebound deficit was Creighton's largest of the season, and it came after the Blueajys had outrebounded seven of their first nine Big East opponents.
The rebounding numbers is a bit of a red flag with Creighton's next game coming Sunday against St. John's, considered the most physically gifted team in the league.
“We're a little concerned but this is one of first games it's happened,” Doug McDermott said. “We have to be able to fight back and not worry about being shoved in the back. It's the Big East, it's physical.
“We have to work on that, especially with the game against St. John's coming up. They're going to try to do the same things, and we need to be able to react better.”
While its rebounding ability helped keep DePaul in the game, Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell said the Bluejays' deficit probably didn't have as much impact as it might on other teams.
“I won't call it a weakness of Creighton, but things that seem important to some teams aren't as important to them,” Purnell said. “They trap in the post, and when you do that, it gives teams a chance to get to the offensive glass.
“They make things count when it matters most.”
Fun for the 'Lumberjack'
So how did Creighton's lumberjack feel about Lumberjack Night?
“That was a lot of fun,” Creighton forward Ethan Wragge said. “A lot of people were dressed up, a lot of people got into it and I thought the crowd was rocking tonight.”
Creighton's athletic department had promoted Friday's game as Lumberjack Night in honor of Wragge, the Bluejays' bearded senior from Minnesota. A lot of the fans wore plaid shirts and donned beards. Some of the in-game music followed the theme of the night.
One of those fans that showed up in lumberjack garb was Wragge's mom, Kari. She wore a plaid shirt. She had a beard. She looked the part.
“I knew she was coming down for the game, but she didn't tell me she had anything going on,” Wragge said. “I have a big extended family here, and they went all out.”
Bits and pieces
Wragge's nine points pushed him into 31st place on Creighton's all-time scoring chart. … Doug McDermott had nine field goals, hiking his career total to 1,001 and making him the first player with 1,000 career baskets since Calbert Cheaney accomplished the feat for Indiana in during the 1992-93 season. … McDermott's nine rebounds also pushed him over 1,000 for his career and made him one of four players in NCAA history to score at least 2,750 points and grab 1,000 rebounds. … McDermott's 32 points moved him into the 17th spot on college basketball's all-time scoring chart as he passed former Duke star J.J.Redick. … It was the 22nd time McDermott has scored 30 points or more, tying him with Bob Portman's school record. ... Creighton has not lost a Friday night game since 1975 and has won every game it's played on the night since 1989 by 10 points or more.
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Video: Highlights from Creighton-DePaul
Video: Creighton coach Greg McDermott
Video: DePaul coach Oliver Purnell
Video: Fox Sports highlights of Creighton-DePaul
Video: Recap from Fox Sports broadcast team
Video: Doug McDermott talks to Fox Sports