Creighton coach Greg McDermott might disagree with the average fan who thought Austin Chatman’s ball distribution was much improved in the Bluejays’ Sunday win against Presbyterian.
Sure, the sophomore point guard’s 11 assists in the 87-58 victory were three more than he had combined in Creighton’s first two wins.
“We made a few more shots tonight,” McDermott said. “On a lot of those 3-point shots we missed the first two games, Austin is a lot of times the guy that delivers the pass.
“Sometimes those assist numbers aren’t totally fair. If he delivers the pass on time and the guy misses the shot, he’s still done his job. He only gets credit for it when the shots go in.”
Creighton made a lot of shots against the Blue Hose, converting 32 of 52 attempts. The Jays made 12 of 24 3-pointers after shooting 27.8 and 37.0 percent from beyond the arc in the first two games.
Chatman made 4 of 6 shots to finish with nine points to go with his career-high assists total.
“Coach has been telling me to stay in the gym and stay at it,” said Chatman, who came into the game 6 of 13 from the field. “I’m going to get a lot of open shots this year, so I’ve been working on my shot a lot.”
Chatman said he’s starting to grow more comfortable with being the starting point guard on a nationally ranked team. His teammates, too, are starting to sense growing calmness about the way he goes about his business.
“He’s slowing himself down,” Creighton forward Doug McDermott said. “Obviously, he might have been a little nervous those first couple of games but I think he’s starting to get a little comfortable. That’s good to see.”
Chatman had nine assists in the first half when Creighton broke out to a 43-17 lead.
“I think he did a really good job of finding guys and hitting them in their hands when they were ready for the ball, especially in transition,” forward Ethan Wragge said. “He had some really good throw backs to Doug and me and some really good post feeds.”
Zone wears out Presbyterian
Presbyterian coach Gregg Nibert knew playing a zone defense against a Creighton team that finished third in the nation in 3-point shooting last season was risky business.
He said he had little choice, knowing that his short rotation probably couldn’t have stopped Creighton man-to-man. Two Presbyterian players were on the court for 40 minutes and a third played 38 minutes. Only one reserve saw extensive playing time.
Seeing the Blue Hose in a zone did quicken the pulse of Creighton’s shooters, Wragge said.
“They were really spread out and really concerned with Doug and Greg down low,” said Wragge, referring to McDermott and center Gregory Echenique. “If teams are going to try to take away the inside like that, we shooters have to make sure they pay for it.”
Wragge made 6 of 8 shots from beyond the arc, there coming on successive possessions in the first half.
“It felt good to get that first one down,” he said. “I got into a little rhythm.”
Downing leads Blue Hose
Presbyterian’s Jordan Downing got into a little rhythm of his own in the second half in scoring 14 of his game-high 25 points. The sophomore transfer from Davidson had scored 13 points in the Blue Hose’s first two losses.
“I’ve been waiting for that,” Nibert said. “I got on him pretty hard after he was 5 for 25 in his first two games. The boy can shoot the lights out but he wasn’t taking good shots and shots in rhythm.
“Tonight, he showed some patience. He showed what kind of player he is.”
Dougie can dish
Doug McDermott had two assists to go with 24 points. The second came on a slick, no-look pass which hit Gregory Echenique breaking to the basket for an easy layup.
“I saw some shooters open on the backside but Gregory had his hands up and I couldn’t miss him,” said McDermott, referring to his 6-foot-9, 260-pound teammate. “I have to continue to work on those passes because I’m going to see a lot of that (double teams). I have to be able to make the right reads and make them pay.”
Bits and pieces
Doug McDermott scored more points in the first five minutes of Sunday’s game than he had total in last Wednesday’s win against Alabama-Birmingham. He scored five points against the Blazers but had Creighton’s first seven against the Blue Hose. The final two of the opening burst came on a dunk, his first of the season. He had one dunk last season when he led the nation with 307 field goals. … Creighton shot 50 percent or better from the field in each of its first three games for the first time since the 2002-03 season. ... Redshirt freshmen Nevin Johnson and Geoff Groselle scored their first career field goals. Johnson, just back from an ankle injury, made a 3-pointer with five minutes to play. Groselle’s basket came on a layup with 2:46 remaining.