(AP) — Creighton has shown early on that it might have enough depth to be consistently successful this season without big games from star forward Doug McDermott.
The No. 14 Bluejays will try for another solid team effort Tuesday night when they host Longwood in regional play for this weekend’s Las Vegas Invitational.
A preseason All-American, McDermott averaged 22.9 points for the 29-6 Bluejays last season. Though Creighton (3-0) reached the third round of the NCAA tournament, only two of his teammates averaged more than 9.0 points.
With opponents now focused more on stopping McDermott, Bluejays coach and Doug’s father Greg McDermott is pleased to see others step up. McDermott’s average has dropped to 16.7 points in this young season, but four other Creighton players are averaging at least 9.0 per contest.
In a 77-60 win over UAB on Wednesday, McDermott was held five points but center Gregory Echenique came through with 13 and 16 rebounds, while reserves Josh Jones and Ethan Wragge combined to score 30.
McDermott was back to form with 24 points in a 87-58 rout of Presbyterian on Sunday. Wragge added 18 on 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point range as the Bluejays shot 61.5 percent overall and went 12 of 24 from behind the arc.
“They’ve got a complete team,” Presbyterian coach Gregg Nibert said.
Wragge, a 6-foot-7 junior who averaged 6.6 points and made 41.0 percent of his 3-point attempts last season, has scored 30 on 10-of-16 shooting on 3s in the last two games.
“It felt good when I got that first one to go in and I got a little rhythm,” Wragge said of his performance Sunday. “They were really spread out and concerned with Doug and Greg (Echenique) down low. If teams are going to take away the inside like that, we as shooters have to make sure they pay for it.”
His coach is more than willing to let his players shoot from long distance if that’s what the situation dictates.
“If they’re going to keep two guys in front of our post guys, we’ve got guys with the green light to let it fly,” Greg McDermott said. “When you have 4s like Doug and Ethan who are capable of stretching the defense, it puts a lot of pressure on them.”
Creighton may need to shoot well from the perimeter in Las Vegas when it faces Wisconsin on Friday and Arizona State or Arkansas on Saturday. Before then, the Bluejays will try for a 41st straight home victory over an unranked non-conference foe when they face Longwood (0-3) for the first time.
The Lancers committed 28 turnovers in a 112-63 loss at Arkansas on Sunday. Longwood is led by 6-9 freshman Michael Kessens, averaging 15.0 points and 10.3 rebounds.