One play early in the second half of Creighton's win over California summed up the defensive effort turned in by Bluejay guard Jahenns Manigat.
Manigat had spent Saturday night hounding and harassing Allen Crabbe, and the Golden Bears star reached a point that he couldn't take it anymore. Coming off a screen, Crabbe found Manigat had battled through the pick and was waiting for him.
So Crabbe shoved Manigat, sending him sliding across the floor, and picked up a foul that cost California the basketball. Afterward, Crabbe admitted Creighton's defense, and Manigat in particular, might have contributed to his 6-of-26 shooting from the field in the 74-64 loss to the Bluejays.
“I just missed shots I normally make,” he said in trying to downplay his subpar shooting night.
Crabbe came into the game leading the Pac-12 in scoring with a 21.9-point average. Manigat and Creighton held him to 14, with no field goals in the first 23 minutes. By then, Crabbe was 0 for 12 from the field.
“He's an unbelievable player, a great shooter,” Manigat said. “He's 6-6, almost 6-7, and he can rise up and fire it. I just tried to make his catches tough and chase him.”
Manigat's defense drew lavish praise from CU coaches and teammates after the Bluejays improved to 10-1. At 6-foot-1, Manigat was giving up five inches to Crabbe, but the California guard got few clear looks at the basket.
“Crabbe was constantly moving, and there were multiple screens on every possession,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “Jahenns just kept fighting through them. Crabbe got very few shots in which he wasn't off-balance.
“Jahenns is right up there with the guys I've coached when it comes to getting through screens. It's a big challenge to do that without fouling, and that's an art in itself.”
When his coach's words were relayed to Manigat after the game, the junior guard from Ottawa was more than flattered.
“Coach is being extra gracious with his compliments,” Manigat said. “I don't think it's an art, but it is all about effort. You just have to try to work your way through those screens, and if you get a late start, it's hard to catch up with him.
“So you just have to keep chasing him as hard as you can, try to stay with him the whole way and pray to God that he doesn't rise up early and shoot it.”
Manigat made sure to share the credit for slowing Crabbe. Avery Dingman, who often spelled Manigat, also turned in a strong effort, and their teammates consistently stepped up to provide extra help.
“They allowed me a chance to get back into position if I'd lose him,” Manigat said. “It takes a team effort to slow down someone like that. One guy doesn't do it on his own.
“We just kept trying to pressure him possession by possession.”
California coach Mike Montgomery praised Creighton's defensive strategy and its players' ability to execute it.
“They came in and they faced Allen and tried to deny everything that we run,” Montgomery said. “That was smart. There are some things we can counter with that we didn't do a really good job of doing. And we did not get other people involved, which is what we have to do.
“We have to get over the idea that he's the only guy who can score.”
A California reporter asked McDermott after the game if Manigat is the Bluejays' best one-on-one defender. He replied that Manigat is the best at battling through screens, while guard Austin Chatman is Creighton's best at stopping players off the dribble.
Center Gregory Echenique, last season's Missouri Valley Conference defensive player of the year, gives the Bluejays a dominant inside defender.
“Everyone has a job to do,” McDermott said, “and when we do our jobs, we're a pretty good basketball team.”
Manigat's defense has improved along with his health. He bruised a thigh early in preseason practice and missed about two weeks. He wasn't 100 percent when he first came back but gradually has worked his way back to full health.
“I don't want to use that as an excuse, but it was tough to get back in shape after sitting out at the start of the year,” he said. “Once I started playing, I knew I just had to tough it out.
“It feels good that Coach trusts me enough to put me on a player as gifted as Crabbe. He knows that I'm going to come out and bust my butt, and it feels good to know that I'm healthy again and that I have my endurance back.”
Manigat also contributed a season-high 11 points in the victory. Creighton is without guard Josh Jones, who missed his third game Saturday and is sidelined indefinitely with a heart issue. Jones was averaging 7.0 points.
He is scheduled to undergo a surgerical procedure this week that will keep him out at least another month.
“It was nice to see Jahenns get it going tonight,” said Creighton forward Doug McDermott, who scored 34 points. “With Josh out, we're going to need him to step up.”
Manigat also said it was good to make some shots against a quality team like Cal. The Golden Bears are picked to contend for the Pac-12 championship, and Manigat said it wouldn't surprise him to see them playing in the NCAA tournament in March.
“That is a tremendous team, and we understood going in what the challenge was,” Manigat said. “As far as scoring some points, I was fortunate that a couple (shots) went in. It felt good, but I'm not concerned with the number of points I score.
“When you have a guy like Doug out there, all we need to do is get him the ball.”
Contact the writer:
402-679-2298, email@example.com, twitter.com/PivOWH