LAS VEGAS — Any doubts about how Austin Chatman would perform when he faced his first big-time atmosphere were put to rest Friday night.
The sophomore point guard scored a career-high 14 points and had three assists in helping Creighton to an 84-74 victory against Wisconsin in the semifinals of the Las Vegas Invitational.
“He did great,” Creighton forward Doug McDermott said. “He's getting so comfortable out there. We all trust each other, and it's huge that we have that level of trust with Austin.
“He's going to be a heck of a player when it's all said and done.”
Chatman, the only new starter from a season ago, made 5 of 7 shots, including both of his 3-point attempts. He showed no hesitancy in pulling the trigger when the Badgers were trying to help inside to slow McDermott and center Gregory Echenique.
“People all year have been going under screens and giving me shots,” Chatman said. “I just tried to step up and make big shots. The game has slowed down for me a lot. That just comes with experience. Things are just starting to come easier for me.”
Asked how he'd grade his effort in his first big game as a starter, Chatman modestly replied, “I think I did pretty well.”
Creighton coach Greg McDermott would agree.
“He was outstanding,” McDermott said. “He made all the right reads.”
When Chatman was out of the game, McDermott decided to use senior Grant Gibbs at the point rather than freshman Andre Yates. Gibbs responded with seven assists and didn't commit a turnover.
“I didn't feel like that I could put Andre in that situation right now,” McDermott said. “He's going to be a good player for us but this game was so important for us. I trust Grant in that situation.”
Plenty of Creighton fans
No attendance was announced but it appeared that Creighton had about half of the estimated 4,000 who showed up for the final game of four that were played Friday.
“Our fans were awesome, and it felt like a home game,” McDermott said. “We need it to feel like that tomorrow night.”
Creighton faces Arizona State in the championship game at 10 p.m.
“That's what makes Creighton special,” McDermott said. “They were in full force tonight. That was a lot of fun.”
Jays find good combo
Creighton's offense was especially effective in the second half when Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge were on the floor together.
McDermott scored 17 of his season-high 30 points after halftime. After going 6 of 15 from the field in the first 20 minutes, McDermott was 4 of 8 in the second half. He also made it to the foul line nine times, making all nine.
“I definitely started looking to go inside in the second half,” he said. “My 3-point shot wasn't there tonight.”
Wragge's was. The junior forward made 4 of 7 from beyond the arc in scoring 17 points. He also made three free throws when fouled while shooting a 3-pointer.
“We gave them problems when Ethan and I were out there together,” McDermott said. “That's when we went on our huge run. They can't leave Ethan open. It's tough to guard both of us.”
Bits and pieces
Organizers for the 2013 DIRECTV Classic announced seven of the eight teams for the holiday event that the Bluejays will participate in next season. The field for the Nov. 28, 29 and Dec. 1 event in Anaheim, Calif., will include Arizona State, College of Charleston, George Washington, Marquette, Miami and San Diego State. The eighth team will be announced later.
— Steven Pivovar