Greg McDermott knew what he would get on offense when he moved Ethan Wragge into Creighton's starting lineup four games ago.
Wragge's outside shooting ability poses problems for opposing big men, who aren't always used to having to chase shooters on the perimeter. In turn, that opens the middle for All-America forward Doug McDermott and his teammates to get to the basket.
“Ethan has played very well for us since we moved him into the starting lineup,” Greg McDermott said. “He's been a consistent threat on the offensive end, but he's probably surprised me a little with his ability defensively.
“He's been able to hold things down a little bit against some bigger, more athletic players.”
Wragge will make his fifth straight start Sunday when Creighton (9-2) closes nonconference play with a 4:07 p.m. game against Chicago State at the CenturyLink Center. The Bluejays will be seeking their 10th win before opening their first season of Big East play.
Chicago State is 5-7 and is looking for its first win away from home. The Cougars have lost the seven road games by an average of 19 points, including getting drilled by Cincinnati by 40 points in their last game.
Creighton, playing for the first time in a week, is coming off an impressive 68-54 win over California. The victory stretched the Bluejays' winning streak to four, which coincides with Wragge's move into the starting lineup.
The 6-foot-7 Wragge started the last seven games of his freshman season in 2009-10 but had come off the bench in the next 87, including the first seven this season. Will Artino, a 6-11 junior, started those seven games as Creighton worked to replace a three-year starter in center Gregory Echenique.
Echenique, at 6-9 and 270 pounds, was a defensive anchor. The Bluejays miss his shot blocking and his ability to control the action around the basket, as neither Wragge, Artino nor true freshman Zach Hanson can eat up space as Echenique did.
“We don't have a true Gregory like we've had in the past,” Wragge said. “I've had to find ways to adjust and play different schemes defensively. The guys around me have helped me a lot.”
Even in high school, when he was the tallest player on his Eden Prairie, Minn., team, Wragge played more outside than inside. He's spent most of his career at Creighton bombing from the outside, as he ranks second behind Kyle Korver on the Bluejays' all-time 3-point chart.
“If you would have told me when I came here that I would essentially be our five man my senior year, I might not have believed you,” Wragge said. “It's just the way things have worked out. It's a role you have to accept.”
Wragge enters Sunday's game leading the Big East in 3-point field goals per game (3.7), is third in 3-point percentage (.482) and 23rd in scoring. His 12.2 scoring average is the highest of his career, and he has scored 10 points or more in seven of Creighton's 11 games.
Wragge also is averaging a career-best 4.4 rebounds per game while playing a career-high 25.4 minutes per contest.
With 134 points already this season, Wragge has moved within 76 of the 1,000-point mark in his career. And he's done it with just 11 career starts. No other Bluejay player in the 1,000-point club started fewer than 59 games.
“I think I've been more efficient when I'm out there,” he said. “And I'm trying to be in the right spots defensively. We don't have shot blockers on our team, so we just have to make sure we're in the right spots defensively.”