Talk about how Creighton lost the past two games because the players are fatigued is, well, a tired subject with the Bluejays.
They've heard it before, about how a heavy workload and a shorter rotation are taking a toll. Proponents of that theory point to Creighton's play in losses to Wichita State and Drake as proof that the players might be running low on gas.
That might be true, guard Grant Gibbs said, but there is another part of the equation.
“The thing you have to understand that everyone in college basketball is a little beat up, a little fatigued right now,” Gibbs said. “We just have to battle through this.
“If we get adequate rest and take care of ourselves, we'll be ready to go. It's all about pushing through that fatigue. The teams that can do it are the ones that are successful.”
The Bluejays play their 21st game of the season Sunday night at Southern Illinois. Gibbs has played an average of 29.4 minutes in the first 20, third-highest on the team.
Point guard Austin Chatman is averaging 31.8 minutes per game, while Doug McDermott is at 31.4. The team's other two starters — Jahenns Manigat and Gregory Echenique — are averaging 25.4 and 22.4 minutes, respectively.
Sixth man Ethan Wragge has averaged 17.8 minutes, while Avery Dingman is playing 15.9 minutes per game. Josh Jones had been averaging almost 20 minutes a game before a heart issue forced him to give up basketball after eight games.
No other Bluejay is averaging more than 6.8 minutes per game, which has led to concerns that coach Greg McDermott's reliance on his top seven players is creating too much wear and tear.
McDermott said he and his staff have tried to be smart in how they've handled the practice workload of the players who are seeing the most minutes.
“We've tried to give them more rest during the week than last year,” McDermott said. “We have to manage that in practice.”
A look back to last season, when Creighton tied a school record by winning 29 games, indicates that average playing time was not dramatically different. McDermott primarily played an eight-man rotation, with Doug McDermott posting a team-high average of 31.9 minutes and senior point guard Antoine Young logging 30.6 minutes.
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Gibbs averaged 29.9 minutes, while Echenique and Manigat were at 23.3 and 22.7 minutes, respectively. Wragge, Jones and Chatman averaged between 11.8 minutes and 17 minutes.
“I think our preparation for this year, all the strength and conditioning we did in the summer, comes into play this time of year,” Manigat said. “There's no reason to do all of that if it's not going to help you out in the season.
“I think the coaches have done a good job of keeping the guys that play a lot of minutes fresh on the practice floor. We're not having extended practices. We're not going to use fatigue as an excuse.”
Instead, the players cite defensive breakdowns, a lack of rebounding and some cold shooting as reasons the Bluejays have lost the past two games. They don't buy that some of those problems are a result of the minutes they're being asked to play.
“We have guys playing a lot of minutes on our team,” Wragge said, “but Coach is doing a good job of not killing our legs in practice. That makes up for it.”
Creighton had four players log 33 minutes or more in Wednesday's 74-69 loss at Drake. Chatman played 38 minutes, Manigat 37, McDermott 34 and Gibbs 33.
On Thursday, none of the starters were required to participate in the normal flow of practice. Instead, they worked on individual skills while the coaches drilled the reserves and scout players.
McDermott did very little as he was recovering from the flu that hit during halftime against the Bulldogs.
“I couldn't eat anything after the game, and yesterday kind of sucked,” McDermott said. “But I feel a lot better today. I was just out of sync the other night. I felt like I didn't have any energy, and at one point I felt like I was going to throw up.
“I needed to be off the floor but with foul trouble and stuff like that, he (Greg McDermott) couldn't get me off of it. I wasn't aggressive on offense because I wasn't effective, so I tried to bring it as much as I could on the defensive end.”
Like a lot of teams, the Bluejays have had their share of illness go through the team. It's that time of year, Doug McDermott said.
“It happens to every team,” he said. “We just have to play through it.'
McDermott ranks ninth in the Valley in minutes played this season, one spot behind Chatman. Three players — Missouri State's Anthony Downing (34.2), Drake's Ben Simons (34.1) and Bradley's Dyricus Simms-Edwards (34.0) — are averaging at least 34 minutes per game.
“We've had a couple of tough losses here,” McDermott said, “but we've been in situations where we could have won those games. We just have to get it back together, focus on defense and everything else will take care of itself.”
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