Creighton catches fire in time to top Louisiana-Lafayette

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The Creighton Bluejays began scoring in threes just in time to scoot past the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns in the NCAA West Regional second round.

Creighton’s All-American forward Doug McDermott scored 30 points and added 12 rebounds, and forward Ethan Wragge hit the big shots the Bluejays needed in the second half to dismiss the Ragin’ Cajuns 76-66 on Friday at the AT&T Center.

Wragge hit three 3-pointers in the second half, guard Austin Chatman added another big one and went to the basket for a three-point play, as did guard Jahenns Manigat.

Creighton needed all of those triples to fend off Louisiana and advance to the next round.

“You’ve got to give them so much credit,” McDermott said. “We got away with one today. We didn’t play our best at the start of the game and we really showed our leadership toward the end, down the stretch.”

Creighton (27-7) will play Baylor on Sunday in San Antonio.

McDermott got into the 3-pointer act by hitting one from the top of the key with 2:06 left, putting the Bluejays ahead 71-64. McDermott went more than 14 minutes of the second half without scoring, but he and Creighton found ways to do the job.

Chatman finished with 16 points and six assists, and Wragge had 12 points, going 4-for-8 from 3-point range.

Louisiana coach Bob Marlin said the game plan was to hold Creighton to eight or fewer 3-pointers and clamp down on Wragge. Those two factors swung in Creighton’s favor in the second half as the Blue Jays finished with nine treys.

“We lost Wragge and he was the guy we were concerned about,” Marlin said “He hit some big ones.”

Guard Elfrid Payton led Louisiana (23-12) with 24 points while guarding McDermott on the defensive end for most of the contest.

The Ragin’ Cajuns surged in the second half with a 9-0 run capped by Payton’s layup to take a 50-46 lead with 12:14 left.

Creighton, which led by as many as nine points in the first half, quickly answered, as guard Grant Gibbs made a layup on an assist from Chatman, before Wragge hit a 3-pointer to put the Bluejays back in front by one.

Manigat appeared to have an open layup before kicking out to Wragge for the go-ahead 3-pointer.

“My initial thought was why not take the two points, Jahenns,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “Jahenns has played with Ethan for a couple years and he knows Ethan has hit a couple. He was willing to give up what might have been good for him to get his teammate an open shot.”

Wragge hit another 3-pointer that bounced around the rim before falling in to keep Creighton’s 10-0 answering run going.

“I was able to get a pretty friendly roll on the second one,” Wragge said.

Gibbs finished the run with two free throws to give the Bluejays a 56-50 lead with 8:28 left.

“We felt like it was in reach from the opening tip,” Payton said. “We got on a good run and they were able to answer with a run of their own.”

Creighton trailed by two midway through the first half before it launched into a 12-1 run driven by McDermott.

After Manigat hit a 3-pointer from the corner, McDermott scored seven straight points, including his first 3-pointer of the game.

Creighton guard Avery Dingman made a layup to cap the Bluejays’ run and gave Creighton a 29-20 lead with 6:31 left in the first half.

McDermott scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the first 20 minutes.

But Payton hit a 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer to cut Creighton’s lead to six at the break.

NOTES: Creighton F Doug McDermott needs four 3-pointers to reach 100 for the season. He went 2-for-4 from 3-point range Friday. … Creighton won a postseason game for the seventh consecutive year and an NCAA Tournament game for the third consecutive season. … Louisiana last made the NCAA Tournament in 2000 and last won an NCAA Tournament game in 1992, when the Ragin’ Cajuns knocked off Oklahoma, 87-83.