Jan 5, 2013, 6:00 PM EDT
Creighton is the nation’s second-best three-point shooting team, knocking down triples at a 43.3% clip. Nearly 40% of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. One of the reasons that the Bluejays collect assists on 62.5% of their made shots is that they are so good at moving the ball around the perimeter and creating open looks from deep.
It’s not a secret that this team is built around two things: Doug McDermott and shooting threes.
So it may come as a surprise to you that the key to Creighton’s season is a senior that has never taken a three-pointer wearing a Bluejays uniform.
Gregory Echenique is a monster. He’s 6-foot-9 and built like bulldozer, but he’s quicker and more explosive than you would expect from a guy with his kind of girth. Put more simply, Echenique has the combination of size and athleticism that you rarely see down in the Missouri Valley; there is a reason he was able to average double-figures at Rutgers before transferring.
That was evident on Saturday as Echenique finished with 16 points, nine boards and four blocks as the No. 16 Bluejays knocked off Indiana State 79-66 to move to 3-0 in the Missouri Valley.
Doug McDermott added 25 points and nine boards and Austin Chatman chipped in with 13 points and nine assists, but it was Echenique’s presence that makes the difference. No one on Indiana State — no one in the country, regardless of level — can score easily in the post against the big Venezuelan. That much cannot be said about McDermott or Ethan Wragge.
Neither of those two can rebound, carve out space or block shots at the same level as Echenique. His ability to be a scoring threat on the block takes some of the pressure off of Creighton’s shooters; if teams allow him to go one-on-one on the block, he can hurt them. If they help, someone is going to get an open three.
Echenique isn’t Creighton’s best player, but he may be their most valuable and irreplaceable.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
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