Austin Chatman admits it's fun to be Creighton's point guard on a night like Wednesday when the Bluejays' offense is clicking on all cylinders.
“It's exciting, and it makes my job easier,” said Chatman after the Bluejays' 91-77 victory over Missouri State. “Everybody got on a roll, and it was easy to find guys that were hot.”
Chatman had 10 of Creighton's 24 assists against the Bears, and he also chipped in 14 points while recording the first double-double of his career.
The 91 points Missouri State allowed were a season high. The Bears came into the game fourth in the Missouri Valley in scoring defense (64.0 points per game) and second in 3-point percentage defense (.305).
Creighton shot 53.6 percent from beyond the arc, coming within one of its season high in making 15 of 28 3-point attempts.
“Our offense was unbelievably efficient tonight,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
Much of the credit for that, McDermott said, has to go to Chatman. The 6-foot sophomore has played well all season in taking over the point from Antoine Young, the only starter not back from last season's 29-win team.
There was some concern before the season how Chatman would handle being given the keys to the offense. McDermott had maintained from the beginning that he had faith in Chatman's abilities but expressed surprised with the confidence that he is playing with at this point in the season.
“It (confidence) is at a different place, and it's probably come faster than I would have anticipated,” McDermott said. “His learning curve was not as steep as I thought it might have to be. He's really played consistent basketball dating back to November.
“Our schedule was good enough that we needed him. He's shooting the ball with confidence and he's a solid defensive player. He covers up a lot of our mistakes on that end of the floor. He's been a good all-around player.”
Chatman made 4 of 7 shots from the field, including a pair of 3-point attempts. He also was perfect from the free-throw line (4 of 4) and had four rebounds while committing just one turnover.
For the season, Chatman is averaging 8.0 points while shooting 48.9 percent from 3-point range. His 107 assists are second on the team behind Grant Gibbs' 128.
“You can see their guys really have a trust level with him,” Missouri State coach Paul Lusk said. “He really pushes the ball. He's going to get a lot of assists when you have a lot of snipers out there like they do.
“They have a lot of very good shooters, guys that are knock-down guys. And he can knock down the 3, too. He's a very good player, and he's only going to get better.”
Bears miss chances
Missouri State squandered a couple of chances to cut Creighton's lead to six points late in the first half, and Lusk said the second time proved to be a back-breaker.
The Bears trailed 39-30 when Bruce Marshall fouled Gregory Echenique but the Creighton center was called for a flagrant one foul when his elbow came in contact with Marshall's head as play continued after the whistle.
Echenique made one free throw and Marshall made both of his to make it 40-32. Missouri State retained possession of the ball but guard Marcus Marshall was called for an offensive foul.
Creighton countered with a putback by Doug McDermott and, after Missouri State missed a layup, Avery Dingman buried a 3-point shot right before the halftime buzzer for a 45-32 lead.
“It goes from 8 to 13, and those were breakdowns on our part,” Lusk said. “They're self-inflicted. It's not that our guys aren't trying but they're just a very, very good basketball team.”
Under further review
The officials reviewed the Marshall-Echenique play, and even though Echenique's actions appeared to be more inadvertent than intentional, he was still called for the flagrant one foul because the contact with his elbow came above the shoulder.
“The rule is a rule, the coaches voted in it and if we want it to change, the coaches better vote it out,” McDermott said. “The referees are just following the letter of the law, and that's what they're supposed to do.”
Creighton's Gibbs was called for a flagrant one foul in the Jan. 19 loss to Wichita State.
“It was costly in one of our games this season,” McDermott said, “but it didn't have as much of an impact tonight.”
The comforts of home
McDermott said his players were almost “giddy” in getting back on their homecourt. The Bluejays had not played at the CenturyLink Center since Jan. 15 because the building was being used for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Creighton forward Doug McDermott said the Bluejays welcomed the opportunity to play at home again after three straight road games.
“We were getting sick of traveling,” he said. “Yesterday was our first practice here in quite a while. It felt good to be back. The fans were great tonight, and we have to thank them for coming out.”
Bits and pieces
Doug McDermott's 29 points give him 1,001 career points in home games at CenturyLink Center Omaha, and 1,908 career points in all venues ... Echenique had two blocked shots, giving him 150 at Creighton. He also had 94 in parts of two seasons at Rutgers ... Creighton had lost its previous two home games to Missouri State … Doug McDermott became the nation's first player to score 500 points this season and leads the country with 526 points … The Bluejays have won 100 home games in a row when they've scored 70 points or more.
— Steven Pivovar