Struggling Creighton looking to shoot its way out of slump

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Creighton had its most successful four-year run in program history largely because of its stellar 3-point shooting.

The 3s aren't falling for the Bluejays now, and they are on the brink of their worst stretch in more than a decade.

Creighton (9-6, 0-2 Big East) must beat conference co-leader DePaul (8-7, 2-0) on Wednesday night to avoid its first four-game losing streak since 1999-2000 and first 0-3 conference start since 1993-94.

The Bluejays enter their league home opener having shot no better than 25.6 percent on 3s in any of the last three games. So it was no surprise several players showed up early for practice Tuesday to get in some extra shooting.

''We don't lose confidence in ourselves and in each other,'' Isaiah Zierden said. ''A couple of us are in a shooting slump, but we don't lose faith that we're going to make the next one. I still think our best basketball is yet to be played.''

The Bluejays were first nationally in 3-point accuracy (41.4 percent) last season. They started this week 193rd (33.2). They've also gone from fourth in overall shooting (49.7 percent) to 248th (42.0).

Of course, the Bluejays no longer have three-time All-American Doug McDermott and 3-point specialist Ethan Wragge launching shots from the perimeter. Those two were part of a senior class that won a program-record 107 games.

''It's an adjustment,'' Zierden said. ''Obviously, (with no) national player of the year, you have to find other ways to score.''

Creighton's three big men are combining to average just 16 points a game, and coach Greg McDermott isn't counting on getting a lot more from Will Artino, Zach Hanson and Geoffrey Groselle.

''We've always played inside-out, so it's big for us to play well because if we play well, then it gets the guards open and it makes their shots and their jobs a lot easier,'' Hanson said. ''We've got to do our thing so it works both ways.''

Groselle scored 14 points, one off his career high, at Providence on Dec. 31. Hanson had a career-high 11 points at Georgetown on Saturday. Each of the three centers has started at least one game.

''It's just trying to figure out which guy on which night. That's kind of the trick,'' Greg McDermott said. ''So far it hasn't been the guy that has started the game. It's always been one of the guys who has come off the bench. It would be nice if whoever started would take that job and run with it. As long as they continue to compete and we can continue to get some production out of there, I think we're in good shape.''

One thing's for sure. The Bluejays won't curtail the number of 3s they put up. Creighton has taken 46.1 percent of its shots from behind the arc. Only nine teams in Division I, none in the Big East, have attempted a higher percentage of 3s.

''It's kind of how we're built,'' McDermott said.

Austin Chatman, Devin Brooks and James Milliken, in addition to shooting the 3, are able to score off the dribble and can attack the basket and get to the free-throw line. Zierden and Toby Hegner do most of their shooting from long range.

Chatman and Zierden have struggled the most the past three games, combining to go 9 for 42 on 3s. Zierden said he and his teammates plan to shoot their way out of their slump.

McDermott wouldn't want them to do anything else.

''As long as we're getting good shots,'' the coach said, ''I'm comfortable with that.''

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