"We talked this week about, not so much of what we do, offensively and defensively, but how we do it. We didn't have to change anything, we just had to get back to who we are," Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said. "To start the game tonight I thought these guys did a terrific job of setting the tone defensively and that defense carried us. It's amazing when you play defense like that it seems like your offense is usually a little bit better."
The Jays were a completely different team than the one that showed up on Wednesday and lost to the Boise State Broncos. Creighton brought the fire defensively and shut down the Hawks, and that seemed to spark them offensively. Creighton's ball movement and execution in the first half was a joy to watch for those that enjoy good basketball. The Jays went on runs of 12 and 13 points and led 47-20 by the end of the first half.
Creighton held the Hawks to 29.6 percent from the field in the first half and led St. Joe's in every single statistical category. Total domination are the words that come to mind to describe what fans saw in that first 20 minutes.
Junior forward Doug McDermott scored 18 of his game-high 26 points in the first. McDermott was struggling with his 3-ball early in the season, but connected on four of his six attempts in the first half and shot 5-for-7 from deep overall in the game.
Senior center Gregory Echenique joined McDermott in double figures with 11 points on 5-6 shooting. Echenique finished with 16 points (second to McDermott's 23) and tied with two teammates for the rebounding lead with six. Echenique was a force inside, and once the 6-9, 260-pounder sealed his man under the basket there was nothing the Hawks could do.
McDermott said the Jays were looking to feed his fellow big man early, and that strategy paid off.
We really wanted to get Gregory going tonight and get his confidence back," McDermott said. "It’s great to see him play like he did tonight … We just have to continue to get that kind of play from him."
Echenique impressed not only his teammates, but the coaching staff as well.
"He was running the floor, he was sealing, he was going after rebounds, and when you have the luxury of being able to play Ronald Roberts one-on-one inside with Gregory, not a lot of teams can do that ... Gregory was the best big man on the floor without question today," Greg McDermott said.
The Jays cooled down a bit in the second half, but still outscored the Hawks by two and cruised to the 29-point victory.
As well as the Jays played defensively, it was Creighton's defense that won the game. The Hawks had six players averaging double figures in scoring on the season coming into the game, but only one player cracked that number against Creighton.
Guard Carl Jones, who lit up Creighton for 29 points last year and was the team's leading scorer at 17.7 points per game, was held to just nine points on 3-10 shooting. Creighton point guard Austin Chatman drew the match-up defensively, and the sophomore outplayed Jones on both ends.
"Six assists, one turnover and chasing Carl Jones around the whole game is a tall task. I thought Austin handled it well ... He's our best perimeter defender, and he showed it tonight."
2013 NBA Draft prospect C.J. Aiken, a 6-foot-9, 200-pound athlete playing center, was barely involved and finished with just six points on 2-5 shooting and three rebounds. Aiken is raw offensively, but St. Joe's didn't even really try to get him the ball inside. Three of his five shot attempts came from behind the 3-point line (he made one), which is where he spent most of the game offensively. Aiken, known mostly as a shot-blocker, did show off his length and athleticism with three blocks, but his overall impact on the game was minimal.
The Jays are now 7-1 on the season and will take the short drive down to Lincoln to take on the Nebraska Huskers at the Devaney Center on Thursday.