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01.03.2011 / The Jays are on a Roll. Posting by Brian Kooienga, Creighton Mens Basketball Graduate Manager

In just over 2 weeks from my last post, so many things have happened on and off the court in our lives, I am not sure where to begin, but bear with me and lets get everyone caught back up on the Creighton University Mens Basketball team!

"The make up of our team is about to be changed drastically come 7:05 PM on Saturday night."

5 In A Row
In case you missed it, our team is on what I like to call a roll.  Finishing off the non-conference slate with big home wins over Saint Joseph’s, Idaho State, Western Illinois, and finally Samford, the squad headed home for a brief, but well deserved Christmas break. While our coaching staff does not want to give all the credit to any one player, but the addition of transfer Gregory Echenique has been a perfect addition to the team. When Kenny is tired, throw Gregory in. When Doug gets into risky foul trouble, throw Gregory in. When we need a shot blocked halfway to the Old Market, throw Gregory in the game. To downplay his arrival would be foolish, and this blog isn’t about jokes or witty sayings, so to put it bluntly, Gregory is going to help us a lot, especially in areas we didn’t even know we were lacking his aggression and hunger for the game. 

Moving out of the non-conference schedule and into the “18 Most Important Games of the Season” the staff hopped on a jet on Tuesday afternoon after a good practice at the Old Gym, and flew over to Bloomington-Normal for Wednesday night’s matchup against the Illinois State Redbirds. With a business-trip like feel to it, the guys knew what had to be done, and the opportunity that presented itself. Here are the facts:

  1. The seniors had never won at Redbird Arena (The home of Illinois State Basketball)
  2. Creighton has not faired well in conference road openers in the past 5 years
  3. The Illinois State team that they faced on Wednesday night is a tricky team to diagnose (lots of wins, easy non-conference schedule, tough to play at home, first road trip for the guys, etc etc)
  4. Finally, Osirius Eldridge graduated from Illinois State, thus their kryptonite-esque powers they have had over the Bluejays had finally vanished and we were finally able to function like normal basketball players when competing against Illinois State

That being said, any and all attempts at humor will officially be abandoned, and the following will provide a recap of the Illinois State game and preview of the conference home opener against geographical rival the Drake University Bulldogs…

Illinois State Recap
Let’s just cut to the chase. Creighton has a terrible history in games played in Normal, IL. There might be something in the water, the court might not be regulation size, I don’t know what it is, but the Jays just haven’t found a way to stack up wins in Redbird Arena. That all changed Wednesday, on a cold and foggy day in central Illinois. Shots fell, plays were made, defensive stops were plentiful, and the Bluejays and first year head coach Greg McDermott found a way to get that elusive victory on the road. The seniors on this team had not experienced a victory at Illinois State in their entire Bluejay careers, and this seemed like the yet another chapter in what could be a fairytale season for this team.

To say that Antione Young played well is an understatement. When we needed a basket, Antione hit the shot. When we needed a defensive stop, it always seemed that he was there to tip a pass, steal the ball from behind, or turn up the pressure on the opposing player, and essentially wreaking havoc on the mindset of every player he guarded. Over the last 5 games, Antione is shooting exactly 50% from the field and from 3PT range as well. Bested only by two other teammates (Doug McDermott’s 52% and Gregory Echenique’s 70%) Antione has played tireless minutes and has really become a great leader for this team, and if he continues to play at the level he has demonstrated so far this season, we are all in for a treat as we watch him develop and grow into one of the league’s premier players.

A brief recap of the game would go something like this: Creighton started out slow, down multiple times in the first half by as many as 7. They then fought back and regained the lead. Utilizing a potent attack with both Kenny Lawson and Gregory Echenique on the floor at the same time, the duo pushed Creighton out to a 4 point lead, one that would not be relinquished the rest of the game. Up 11 at halftime, the Jays put the game on cruise control in the second half and squeaked out an eleven-point win on the road. Winning the rebounding battle and taking full advantage of clutch free throw shooting (100% club shoutout to Kaleb Korver, Ethan Wragge, and Jahenns Manigat!) were keys to success and led to a Bluejay victory. 

There are many things that happen in sports. Wins, losses, points scored, shots missed, and nearly every emotion can be felt while in the heat of competition. The one thing that can be agreed upon is that the feeling after a win is that while driving, riding, or flying home, the trip is SO MUCH BETTER than coming home from a loss. (This may be the point where every reader thinks to themselves, “Well duh, that’s the most obvious statement of all time…”) But seriously, it’s not nearly as cold as thermometers say, traffic simply does not exist, jokes are funnier, food tastes better, early morning practices are enjoyable, and the hard work and preparation that goes into the win are fully appreciated and recognized. The staff has worked their tails off getting all the film cut up and broken down, scouting reports are in depth and 100% accurate, and the game plans, when actually executed by the players, have been the perfect recipe for success. If everyone in the program keeps working as hard as they have been so far, this season should be a memorable one.

Go Jays!  Brian Kooienga

What did you think of the Jays games this past weekend? Join in the conversation NOW and post your comments.

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