Creighton shows off new defense on foreign trip to Italy

The Creighton men’s basketball team may be young this season, but they’re long.

And that’s something that head coach Greg McDermott thinks he can use to their advantage.

The Bluejays, in the midst of an overseas trip to Italy, used a new-look defense to help push tempo en route to a 119-47 thumping of Oleggio Friday night.

According to Bluejay beat writer for the Omaha World-Herald, Steve Pivovar, the Jays have been working on a 1-2-2 press and really like its potential for the upcoming season.

“McDermott, who has rarely pressed in his five seasons as the Bluejays’ coach, likes what he’s seen at times from the defense,” Pivovar wrote.

“We have a little more length than we’ve had in the past,” McDermott said in the article. “Something like this could be effective. We just have to keep working on it to see if it’s something that might fit the group.”

The group he’s referring to includes mostly newcomers that have embraced the press. 6-foot-7, redshirt freshman Ronnie Harrell, has been logging good minutes at the top of the press with a wingspan close to 7 feet.

Freshman Martin Krampelj, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Slovenia, has the same lengthy wingspan as Harrell and freshman Khyri Thomas is 6-foot-3 with a wingspan of 6-10¾.

“Its been pretty fun to run,” Harrell said in the Omaha World-Herald article before leaving for Italy. ““It takes advantage of our skill sets. We’ve been getting some fast-break baskets, some dunks off of it. Those are easy points.”

In fact, according to the Bluejays Sports Information Director, Rob Anderson, Creighton dunked the ball 11 times in their blowout win of Oleggio. The Jays only recorded 29 dunks in 33 games last season.

The Bluejays, whose other newcomers include transfers, Cole Huff and Mo Watson Jr., junior college transfer, Malik Albert and a top-50 prospect in their freshman class, Justin Patton, scored 44 points off 35 forced turnovers in their first of three games in Italy.

Albert led all scorers with 20 points and freshman guard Khyri Thomas scored 17. Huff had 13 points and seven boards while Watson dished seven assists in their debuts after sitting out the 2014-15 season.

Although the win came against a not-so-good Italian team Friday, the Jays benefited from the game experience for their young guys and the time to experiment with different combinations and different looks offensively and defensively.

Athleticism is huge in the Big East Conference and it will be interesting to see how a McDermott squad with a little more height and length can do against preseason favorites Villanova and Georgetown.

The Bluejays play their second game of the trip, which ends on August 12, on Tuesday night versus All Star Rome. The Jays open their season in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Event against Texas Southern on November 14.

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*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports

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