LONG BEACH, Calif. — A rare shuffle of the starting lineup Tuesday night paid dividends for Creighton.
Senior forward Ethan Wragge, who hadn’t started since his freshman season, took Will Artino’s spot in the starting five against Long Beach State. Wragge scored 15 points in the 78-61 victory at the Walter Pyramid, while Artino had a season-high 13 points in the win.
“We hadn’t been playing our best basketball, and when you’re not, you have to get your best basketball players on the floor,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It’s no secret that Ethan’s one of our best basketball players.
“I’m not sure that it was as much anything that Will did or didn’t do as I just felt like we needed a little spark. I wanted to get all of our experience out there on the floor at the start. I really challenged the four seniors and Austin (Chatman) that they had to set the tone for how we prepare and play.”
Artino said the change allowed him to play with more freedom than he’s been playing with in the Bluejays’ three previous games in California.
“Coach and I had talked about it, and I just had to get back to bringing energy like I did the last couple of years,” said Artino, who made 5 of 7 shots from the field and 3 of 4 free throws. “I had gotten away from how I was playing last year. I was playing kind of timid.
“I just let it all out there and felt a lot better tonight than the last couple of games. I was more into it. I don’t know what’s going to happen but this game was good for everyone on the team as a whole.”
Wragge said he learned Monday that he would be starting for the first time since the final game of the 2009-10 season. His last 87 appearance had come off the bench.
“It’s been awhile,” Wragge said with a slight smile. “I had a tough time catching my breath at the start but I wasn’t nervous. I’ve played a lot, so it wasn’t like it was anything new.
“We just needed to mix it up. We needed to get off to a quick start.”
McDermott had not changed starting lineups the past two seasons, and had started the same five for the first seven games this season.
Bluejays ready to come home
The game marked the end of Creighton’s long trip to the West Coast. The Bluejays left Omaha on Nov. 26 to begin preparing for their three games in the Wooden Legacy tournament.
Tuesday’s game was a return of the 2011 BracketBusters game against Long Beach.
“We’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of bonding,” said freshman guard Isaiah Zierden, who scored a career-high 12 points against the 49ers. “It’s going to be nice to have my own room to kind of get away to for a little bit.
“It seems like we’ve been out here forever.”
Bits and pieces
Creighton does not play another road game until Jan. 4 at Seton Hall .. Doug McDermott scored his 2,400th career point on a free throw in the first half … After playing four players 30 or more minutes in Sunday’s loss to George Washington, Greg McDermott did not use any of his players more than 27 minutes on Tuesday … Creighton had not won the rebounding battle in its past four games, finishing tied twice. The Bluejays held a 35-32 edge against Long Beach State, and had a 10-6 edge in second-chance points.