Tulsa's pick-its-poison defensive plan Saturday had no antidote for Creighton guard Austin Chatman.
In an attempt to provide some help to try to slow All-American Doug McDermott, the Golden Hurricane elected to play off the 6-foot Chatman. He responded by making 7 of 9 shots from the field, including four 3-point baskets, in scoring a career-high 19 points in No. 23 Creighton's 82-72 victory.
“We knew he was a capable shooter,” Tulsa coach Danny Manning said. “Did I expect him to go 4 of 5 from 3? No.
“When you make your game plan, you have to take something away and you have to give something up.”
Manning called Chatman the engine that drives Creighton's offense, but it was the junior's shooting that kept the Bluejays in the game in the first 20 minutes. McDermott then took over after halftime, scoring 21 of his 33 points as Creighton improved to 4-0 before 18,078 at the CenturyLink Center.
How big was Chatman's ability to knock down shots?
“We would have been in deep trouble without his performance today,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
His son agreed.
“He was huge,” Doug McDermott said. “When Austin's hitting 3s for us, it just opens up the whole floor. Somehow, teams are sagging off of him and he shoots it at such a high percentage.
“It makes our jobs easier inside. He had it rolling tonight and we did a good job of finding him.”
Actually, Chatman had some difficulty getting shots to fall in the Bluejays' first three games, and that made him the likely candidate to play off of in Tulsa's defensive scheme. He came into the game shooting 45 percent from the floor — second lowest on a team that was making 54 percent of its field-goal attempts.
He made 6 of 7 shots in the first half, including all three of his 3-point attempts. His second 3-pointer pulled Creighton into a 39-39 tie 1:39 before halftime. His third, with seven seconds left in the half, gave the Bluejays a 42-41 lead.
“After I made the first one, everything after that just felt good,” said Chatman, who had made 3 of his first 7 3-point attempts this season. “And my teammates did a good job of finding me.”
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Chatman connected again early in the second half as part of a 13-4 spurt in the opening 2½ minutes that stretched the Bluejays' lead to 55-45. McDermott capped the opening burst by making 3-point shots on back-to-back possessions that had Manning calling for time with 17:26 to play.
Tulsa (0-4) never got closer than five points the rest of the way. Two of Tulsa's first three losses were to Creighton's former Missouri Valley opponents Missouri State and Wichita State.
“We definitely weren't our sharpest today but we got a great performance out of Austin and Doug was outstanding,” Greg McDermott said. “It was enough to carry us, but we could never deliver that knockout blow.
“But the reality is if you ask Missouri State and you ask Wichita and you ask me now, Tulsa is not a bad basketball team. They're going to win a lot of games before it's all over.”
What Tulsa isn't now, Manning said, is good enough to overcome what he called the 12 to 15 crucial possessions that decided Saturday's game.
“There were stretches where we did some good things,” Manning said. “But it was those 12 to 15 possessions that we couldn't make plays that could have swayed it at different points in the game.
“We have to get better. We're on a skid, and the only way we can benefit from the position we're in now is go win some games when we go to Alaska. We have to continue to grind and get better.”
Tulsa got 21 points from Rashad Smith, whose layup with 3:51 to play pulled the Golden Hurricane to within 73-68. After Creighton missed a shot, Tulsa could have pulled even closer, but Pat Swilling missed a 3-point attempt, one of 10 misses in 11 attempts from beyond the arc in the second half for the Golden Hurricane.
Doug McDermott then buried a 3-point shot on Creighton's next possession, and sealed things with his ninth basket of the game with 53 seconds to play.
McDermott missed 4 of his first 5 shots before making 8 of his last 12 attempts. He also had a season-high 15 rebounds after grabbing 17 in his team's first three games.
“Last year I tended to leak out a little because I knew Gregory would get every board around the rim,” said McDermott, referring to center Gregory Echenique. “I was a little more flexible and I could get out in transition and run a little more.
“This year, I'm going to have to step up and rebound more. I've been focused on that the last week or so in practice.”
Creighton will now head for California — the Bluejays play three games in the Wooden Legacy tournament before facing Long Beach State — with enough things to clean up to make things interesting in practices.
Greg McDermott especially didn't like how Tulsa was able to score in transition, especially since the Bluejays had devoted a great deal of recent practice time on getting back on defense.
“By our count, we gave up 25 or 26 points in transition,” McDermott said. “Their ability to get to the basket put us back on our heels. We knew going in that scoring in transition was a big part of what they do.
“Our defense has to get better. We're going to be facing a legitimate top 20 team Thursday in Arizona State. We will have to play better than we did today on the defensive end of the floor.”
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Video: Highlights from the Creighton-Tulsa game:
Video: Creighton postgame press conference: