Creighton’s Supporting Cast Appears Up to the TaskPosted by Walker Carey on February 14th, 2014
Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday night’s game between Creighton and Butler in Indianapolis.
When Creighton basketball has been mentioned over the past several seasons, Doug McDermott has rightfully been the primary focus of conversation regarding the Blue Jays. As a senior this season, McDermott has emerged as the heavy favorite for every national player of the year award. He is averaging over 25 points per game along with seven rebounds per contest for a 20-4 Creighton squad that is right in the thick of things in the race for the Big East crown. If the Blue Jays win the Big East and if they make noise in the NCAA Tournament will have a lot to do with the supreme talent of Doug McDermott; however, the team’s success has not and will not be only because of McDermott’s heroics. Creighton not only has arguably the best player in college basketball, but it also has a very capable supporting cast of role players that has been very essential to the team’s success.
The most heralded member of Creighton’s supporting cast this season has been senior forward Ethan Wragge. After spending his first three seasons of eligibility in a reserve role for the Blue Jays, Wragge has stepped up his production with his entry into the starting lineup. His scoring average has gone from 7.7 points per game as a junior to 11.6 points per game as a senior. Wragge also grabbed plenty of national attention after he exploded for 27 points on nine made three-pointers in Creighton’s blowout victory at Villanova on January 20. The program has recognized the senior’s contributions and honored its bearded sharpshooter with Lumberjack Night at the CenturyLink Center when it hosted DePaul on February 7.
Very rarely do you see a sixth-year senior in college basketball, but that is what Creighton has with its assist man Grant Gibbs. The team’s elder statesman is in his third year as a captain and has led the team in both assists and steals over the last two seasons. While Gibbs’ production this season has been slowed by a knee injury suffered in early January that caused him to miss six games, he has shown little signs of rust in the three games since his return. Gibbs is a well-seasoned, gritty veteran that will be a key factor in any additional success that Creighton experiences this season.
Wragge and Gibbs might be Creighton’s most important role players, but junior guard Austin Chatman, senior guard Jahenns Manigat, and junior forward Will Artino also play big minutes for the Blue Jays. In Wednesday night’s 68-63 win at Butler, McDermott turned in yet another sensational performance with 26 points and he drained the go-ahead three-pointer with 49 seconds to play. Wragge and Gibbs were mostly non-factors for the evening, as both battled foul trouble early and consequently could not find solid rhythms. Luckily for Creighton though, Chatman, Manigat, and Artino stepped up and greatly contributed to the winning effort. Chatman finished the narrow with nine points and six assists and he drained all four of his free throws in the final 18 seconds to put the game on ice. Manigat got off to a slow start Wednesday, as he went scoreless on only one shot attempt in the first half. The second half was a different story though, as the senior drained important three three-pointers and provided the Blue Jays with strong defense on the perimeter. Artino was a stalwart in the post throughout his 22 minutes, as he finished the night with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The junior forward was also part of a suffocating interior defensive effort that held Butler’s starting frontline of Khyle Marshall, Kameron Woods, and Andrew Chrabascz to a combined 7-of-24 performance from the field.
Doug McDermott is a once-in-a-generation college basketball player and he will certainly have the biggest impact on how Creighton ends its season, but the Blue Jays’ supporting cast is strong enough to provide their star player with enough assistance to win games down the stretch and in the postseason.