Sophomore Christian Bishop stepped to the free-throw line on Creighton’s second possession of the exhibition game Friday and raised his left arm to mimic his shooting stroke.
That’s how his foul-line trips will start now — a routine rehearsed throughout the offseason as he logged countless reps in the middle of demanding practices and hoisted up all those extra attempts well after everyone had left the gym.
Bishop made just 16 of his 37 free-throw tries (43.2%) last season. He was a woeful 2 of 9 from the line in three NIT contests. He knew he could do better, but he had to work at it.
Friday’s final preseason tune-up seems to suggest that Bishop’s commitment has paid off.
The 6-foot-7 forward knocked down all seven of his free throws on a night when he led Creighton with 21 points, helping the Jays earn a 95-63 win over Division II McKendree before an announced crowd of 15,340 at the CHI Health Center.
“Every single day I get extra free throws up,” Bishop said. “That’s good for confidence. And my teammates, they’re talking to me, giving me confidence. … It’s every day, just get a little (more) shots in. It helps.”
That’s what Friday was supposed to be about — it was the guys’ first chance to try to carry their practice habits over to a game.
Bishop finished alley-oops through contact, converted a left-hand runner in the lane and dunked after a right-hand drive through the paint. Juniors Ty-Shon Alexander and Mitch Ballock combined for 31 points on 15 shots — they both scored on all three levels (from distance, at the rim and on the foul line).
Graduate transfer Kelvin Jones ended up with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman Shereef Mitchell’s three-point play in transition capped a 12-4 CU surge late in the first half, which enabled the Jays to take a double-digit lead into the break. Redshirt freshman Jett Canfield buried a 3-pointer during that run as well.
“These games give the new guys in particular the opportunity to put their uniform on in front of the fans with the lights on,” CU coach Greg McDermott said. “I think there’s a lot of value in that.”
And plenty of chances to grow, too. Because the Jays were far from perfect, according to McDermott.
Creighton wasn’t always fundamentally sound defensively as it tried to stick with McKendree’s screening and cutting guards. There were some silly turnovers, too. Some shots were forced. A few didn’t even draw iron.
But five of the six reserves who played time Friday had never played in a Creighton game before. The lineups CU used were often nontraditional and unfamiliar. It’ll be a while before the Jays are at full strength.
Senior guard Davion Mintz (high ankle sprain) is expected to miss the next couple weeks. Junior wing Damien Jefferson (foot) was hobbled Friday — he sat out the second half. Sophomore center Jacob Epperson broke a bone in his leg and will be sidelined most of the winter. Transfer wing Denzel Mahoney isn’t eligible until December.
Still, McDermott could identify plenty of encouraging signs afterward — starting with Bishop, whose growth was evident Friday, particularly at the free-throw line.
“It doesn’t happen without all of his extra work,” McDermott said.
CU will open the 2019-20 regular season with a home game against Kennesaw State Tuesday at the CHI Health Center.
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Creighton's Jalen Windham drives to the basket against McKendree's Bryson Bultman during an exhibition game in Omaha on Friday.
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