Jays still find it fun to run

Austin Chatman averages 8.1 points per game while running point for Creighton.


Greg McDermott's comment was made half-jokingly, but the Creighton coach knew there was more than a shred of truth in it.

McDermott was discussing the Bluejays' offensive style of play and, if given their present personnel situation, whether he was considering putting the brakes on the go-go mode of attack.

“I would have 16 guys that would be all over me if we changed our style,” McDermott said. “That's the way they like to play. They believe in each other. They just need to communicate with me when they need a break.

“As long as we can do that, I think it's to our advantage to get out and run. We want to play fast. That's the way I want to play, and I think it's the way this team functions at the highest level.”

The No. 16 Bluejays will match up with another high-scoring attack Wednesday night when they face Illinois State in a 7:05 p.m. game at Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill. The second Missouri Valley game of the season not only matches the league's highest-scoring offenses but also the teams that were picked 1-2 in the preseason poll.

Creighton put up 87 points in posting a 17-point win over Evansville in its conference opener. The Redbirds lost their opener at Indiana State, rallying late in the game but still suffering a 77-75 defeat.

“We came out sluggish,” Illinois State coach Dan Muller said after the game. “We had a lot of guys that didn't play their best. When you play good teams, and Indiana State is a really good team, you're not going to win many doing that.

“Our rebounding effort was unacceptable, and that lost us the game.”

Indiana State, which came into the game with a minus-1.0 rebounding margin, finished with a 10-rebound advantage over the Redbirds. That has to be a concern for Muller as the Bluejays are the Valley's second-best rebounding team.

Creighton also ranks second, behind Illinois State, in scoring despite not having the same depth it did a season ago when the Bluejays ranked as one of the nation's most efficient offenses.

Creighton has lost key reserve Josh Jones, who has been forced to give up basketball because of a heart problem. In addition, several young players haven't developed as quickly as hoped, leaving McDermott to shorten his rotation since Jones went the sidelines after fainting before the Dec. 6 game at Nebraska.

Seven players have received the bulk of the playing time in the past five games, which raises the question of whether Creighton can continue playing at a fast pace over the grind of an 18-game conference schedule.

The Bluejays are convinced they can.

“Coach does a pretty good job of getting us breaks during games when we need one,” guard Avery Dingman said. “And the day before games, he does a good job of conserving our legs.

“Myself, I need to be in a little better shape with Josh out. He was playing about 20 minutes a game, and I've picked up some of those. I just think we can keep up this same pace.”

Forward Ethan Wragge agreed with his coach that the style is one the team has embraced the past two seasons. Creighton played a slower, set-based offense in McDermott's first season in 2010-11.

“We had a little bigger rotation last year, but I think guys are more experienced with it,” Wragge said. “We know what we need to do, especially in the days between games.

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“Guys that play a lot rest their legs and take ice baths. And Coach has been really good about knowing when we need to be out here grinding in practice and when we need time for our legs to catch up.”

Wragge has averaged 17.4 minutes and Dingman 14.3 as Creighton's top reserves. Three starters — Doug McDermott, Grant Gibbs and Austin Chatman — are logging about 30 minutes a game, with Jahenns Manigat averaging 24.2 minutes and Gregory Echenique 22.6.

No other Bluejay is playing more than an average of 6.6 minutes. Greg McDermott would like to see some of the team's younger players step up, but he knows the development curve can't always be rushed.

True freshman Andre Yates started the season backing up Chatman at point guard, but his playing time has diminished as McDermott has used Gibbs at the position when Chatman needs a break.

McDermott said Yates continues to make progress in practice.

“Andre is getting better,” McDermott said. “Has he progressed as fast as I would have liked? Probably not, but the schedule we've played hasn't allowed us to get him on the floor as much as I'd like.

“He's had to fight a few injuries and some illness. When you're a freshman, it's hard when you don't feel perfect and you're trying to figure out a way to compete at this level. He'll be OK.”

» NOTES: Illinois State leads the series 40-29 and holds a 24-8 edge in games played in Normal. ... Creighton will be trying to win its first five games away from home to start a season since 1999-2000. ... The Bluejays' 12-3 record in true road games the past two seasons is tied for fifth nationally in winning percentage. Murray State (16 wins) is the only team to post more true road wins in that span. ... Greg McDermott's 64 wins in 87 games is tied with Tom Apke for the best start in school history.

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