The extra time Creighton has to prepare for Thursday's game against Nebraska provided the Bluejays with a rare luxury Monday.
“Today was all us,'' Creighton coach Greg McDermott said after a two-hour practice. “We needed a day like this because we haven't had one since before the UAB game.
“It was nice to be able to clean up some timing things offensively and work some situational things that we want to have ready if we want to use it.''
Since the Nov. 14 win over Alabama-Birmingham, McDermott and his staff have had to use most of the practice time preparing for games. The Bluejays played four games in a seven-day period as part of the Las Vegas Invitational.
Creighton had two days to prepare for last Wednesday's game against Boise State, then two more to get ready for Saturday's showdown-turned-mowdown against St. Joseph's.
The Bluejays hammered the Hawks 80-51 in a game that matched teams predicted to win their conferences this season. The victory provided a nice rebound from the loss to Boise State that snapped a season-opening six-game winning streak.
Last week's split cost Creighton some ground in the national polls, as the Bluejays dropped from 11th to 13th in the USA Today coaches' rankings and from 11th to 16th in the Associated Press top 25.
Like most coaches, McDermott is unconcerned with rankings at this time of the season.
“It's nice to be in the top 25 because your name goes across the ticker more on ESPN and your highlights get shown,'' McDermott said. “Don't get me wrong, there are benefits to it, but it's far more important later in the season than it is now.
“You see more changes this time of the year. Some team starts 4-0, loses a couple of games and drops out. Somebody new comes in, loses a couple of games and then they're gone. The sample size at this point isn't large enough to get a real good handle on who the best teams are.''
One of the things McDermott wants to see some of his players work on in the coming days and weeks is sharpening their 3-point aim. The coach had a brief meeting after practice with Josh Jones, Jahenns Manigat and Avery Dingman.
“He told us he wanted us to get up a minimum of 200 shots a day,'' Jones said. “If we do that, it's going to pay off. We have to do what we can to help this team win, and if we can knock down outside shots, that's going to open up the offense even more.''
Jones shot 42.3 percent from 3-point range last season but is converting just 32.3 percent of his shots this season from beyond the arc. Manigat, slowed by injury at the start of the season, is shooting 29.2 percent from 3-point range this season after making 46.8 percent last season.
“Josh and Jahenns are much better shooters than what they've shot it through eight games,'' McDermott said. “We have to get them back to being their old selves. I'm a firm believer that if you invest a little more time, things usually change for the better.''
Dingman is shooting 45.0 percent from 3-point range while playing an average of 12 minutes per game.
“He just needs to stay sharp,'' McDermott said. “When you're playing 12 or 13 minutes a game, you have to make sure you stay in shape and you're getting those extra shots up outside of practice time.''
Ethan Wragge, the Bluejays' top threat from beyond the arc, started last week leading the nation in 3-point percentage at .583. That dropped to .500 after the junior forward made 2 of 10 3-point attempts against Boise State and St. Joseph's.
Neither Wragge or McDermott are concerned by the off week.
“I didn't shoot the ball as well as I wanted to but I don't measure my shooting on makes or misses,'' Wragge said. “I measure it by how the shot came off (my hand) or how it looked. I didn't have one air ball, one bad miss.
“They all rimmed in and out. Three of the shots against Boise State were shots I might normally shoot. They were contested, we were down and I was just trying to make something happen.''
The fact that Wragge isn't stressing about a 2-for-10 week could indicate his growth as a shooter and a player.
“If I would have done something like that my sophomore or freshman years, I would have been thinking about it a lot more,'' Wragge said. “But I was perfect from the free-throw line last week. I still know I can shoot it.''
McDermott said he knows he doesn't need to suggest that Wragge get more shots up in practice because the player already works through a rigorous shooting routine daily. Wragge estimates he shoots 300 shots on a game day, sometimes more on non-game days.
“He has a routine, and that's led him to become one of the best shooters I've ever coached,'' McDermott said. “Guys like that, I don't mess with much.''
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