On a day when pink is a primary color, Creighton can't afford to let the team in red steal the show.
Bradley will visit the CenturyLink Center on Saturday for the Bluejays' annual “Pink Out” game to raise awareness for cancer research. The 2:05 p.m. game will pit a Creighton team tied for first in the Missouri Valley Conference against a Braves squad that has made marked improvement in coach Geno Ford's second season.
One reason Bradley has gotten better is the ability to disrupt opposing offenses with its larcenous ways. The Braves lead the Valley in steals and rank fifth nationally with a 10.4 average.
Dyricus Simms-Edwards and Walt Lemon Jr. have accounted for more than half the steals. The two guards have combined to average 5.41 per game.
“Those two guys really like to get into you and crowd you,” Creighton guard Jahenns Manigat said. “Simms is a big, physical guy, and he's stronger than most guards. He likes to get under you and get you off-balance, and the next thing you know he's ripping the ball away from you.
“Lemon really likes to jump passing lanes. He can look like he's not in position, but if you throw a soft pass, he's right there and he's streaking to the hole for two. We're really going to have to be careful against guys like that. We have to value the pass and the catch more than any other games we've played.”
Lemon and Simms-Edwards rank 1-2 in scoring for the Braves, who at 13-9 already have won six more games than they did a season ago. A victory in Saturday's game would allow them to triple the two conference wins in Ford's first season.
“We've made some improvement, and that shows up in our wins and losses,” said Ford, whose team evened its Valley record at 5-5 with Wednesday's win against Illinois State. “We're not world-beaters yet, so we have to stick with the process.
“We have to remember where we've been and where we're trying to get to. We still have strides that need to be made to become an upper division team in this league, but at least we're trending in the right direction now.”
The Braves aspire to be like Creighton, which finds itself tied for the league lead with Wichita State. Victories against Southern Illinois and Missouri State have allowed the No. 21 Bluejays (19-3, 8-2) to bounce back from their only two-game skid of the season.
To prepare for a challenging stretch run — with four of their last seven Valley games on the road — the Bluejays need to protect their home court in front of what could be a record turnout.
The game is already a sellout, and the Bluejays will begin selling standing-room-only tickets with hopes of topping the arena record of 18,735.
The majority of fans will show up wearing pink. Creighton will wear pink shoes to go along with pink jerseys. The Bluejays also will warm up for the game wearing pink shooting shirts.
Those shirts already have been auctioned off, raising $24,444 for cancer research. Seven of the shirts drew bids of more than $1,000, with Doug McDermott's No. 3 shirt going for $5,002.
McDermott smiled when asked if he'd pay $5,000 for his shirt.
“Whoever did that is crazy,” he said, laughing. “I was really shocked by that, but it's for a good cause. I respect that, and it's cool to see people spend that much money on our jerseys.”
Saturday's event is close to the hearts of the McDermott family. Theresa McDermott, Doug's mother and the wife of coach Greg McDermott, is a breast cancer survivor.
This is the third season Creighton has held a “Pink Out” game, and Greg McDermott is amazed by the growth of the event.
“To see people jump on board as they have is really special,” he said. “The reality of it is that we've all been touched by cancer in some way. It just happens to hit closer to home for our family than some.
“We know what it can do to a family, and we understand how important it can be to prevent it.”
CU's coach is thankful for the fans who bid in the auction, and he's hoping the fans will add to that total Saturday.
“We'll be passing cans around, and I'm hoping that everyone that comes through the doors can throw in a buck or two,” he said. “If the fans are generous, we'll be able to raise a lot more money for a very important cause.”
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