Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports
A slow start couldn't deter Creighton as Doug McDermott scored 25 points to lead the Bluejays past Bradley in a crucial Missouri Valley matchup. The win gave Creighton back its lead in the conference with the Wichita State loss.
Perhaps playing against Bradley was the wrong time to break out the pink uniforms. You would think a coach who had some experience in Iowa would know better. The pink has some odd properties, and for 20 minutes, it sapped Creighton of its mojo.
The Bluejays entered Saturday's game as the top 3-point shooting team in the nation, but you never would have guessed that. The Jays put up a ridiculous 21 attempts from deep yet only made seven. Combined with a dismal performance inside the arc, Creighton put together just 27 points in the opening half
And they were losing to the Braves by three.
Bradley packed the paint and dared the Jays to shoot from the outside, a strategy that has backfired for most of their opponents this year. The Jays failed to work the ball inside and continued to take 3-pointers early in the shot clock. Most were wide open, but they failed to fall.
"With this team it doesn't surprise me [that we shot so many 3-pointers]," All-American forward Doug McDermott said. "We like to shoot the threes. That's our game. They weren't falling, but we bounced back there in the second half."
The Jays bounced back like a super ball, opening up the second period with an 8-0 run that was all inside. McDermott and Gregory Echenique each drove the lane twice to stake Creighton to a lead it would not relinquish.
Austin Chatman, joined the party with a career high four 3-pointers, and 16 points.
"My man was doing a lot of the digging so it left me open for a lot of threes," Chatman said. "I've just been in the gym working with coaches and just staying after my shot, and it paid off."
Not to be out done, McDermott posted one of his patented solo runs to push the lead out to 17 points, the final margin of victory for the Jays at 75-58.
The junior came on strong in the second half, finishing with 25 points and seven rebounds in his vocal campaign to be the National Player of the Year. Bradley head coach Geno Ford, who joked after the game about trying to get McDermott sick with some bad chicken, believes he should win the award.
"He's really good," Ford said. "There's a reason he's up for national college player of the year and it's, quite frankly, an award he probably should get."
Dyricus Simms-Edwards had a strong game for the Braves, scoring 18 points on 8 of 13 shooting and pulling down five rebounds, but it wasn't enough as Bradley's Walt Lemon Jr. and Tyshon Pickett combined to go 12-for-30 from the field for 26 points.
With the victory the Jays became the third team to reach 20 wins this season, and are 9-2 in Valley play. Wichita State fell to Northern Iowa shortly after Creighton finished to give the Jays sole possession of first place in the conference.
Now Indiana State looms, a team with a lot riding on grabbing yet another top 25 win, so now would be the right time to tuck away the pink jerseys that sapped the Bluejay strength for 20 minutes Saturday.
Another slow start is out of the question.