With eight victories in a row, the No. 18 Creighton men’s basketball team is one of the hottest in the country.
The Jays continued sparking Saturday afternoon when they played host to the Indiana State University Sycamores. The Sycamores, who won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament last season, have struggled mightily this year and arrived at CenturyLink Center Omaha sporting a 2-6 conference record.The game was broadcasted on ESPN2 and the Jays showed the nation what all the hype is about with a dominating 75-49 victory.
After a sluggish first four minutes, the Jays’ bench came in and ignited the team with excellent shooting as junior guard Josh Jones and sophomore forward Ethan Wragge each hit two 3-pointers to get the Creighton offense into gear.
The starters then got into the mix as sophomore guard Jahenns Manigat tossed in two more 3-pointers and junior guard Grant Gibbs hit one of his own.
The Jays stretched the lead to 17 at the end of the first half when Indiana State guard Jake Odum missed the front end of a one-and-one and Creighton freshman guard Austin Chatman secured the rebound, giving the Jays one last shot before the intermission. Chatman advanced the ball down court to senior guard Antoine Young for a buzzer-beating pull-up. Creighton finished 7-11 from behind the 3-point line in the first 20 minutes en route to a 42-25 lead.
The Jays continued to expand their lead, building it as high as 25 points before the offense stalled. Creighton went almost seven minutes without converting a single field goal and the Sycamores went on an 11-to-1 run to cut the lead to 14. Then freshman guard Avery Dingman hit a 3-pointer to snap the jays out of their funk and Wragge hit a pair of free throws to stretch it back to 19 with 1:58 remaining.
They would go on to win by 26 points. Creighton lead wire-to-wire and dominated the Sycamores in nearly every category.
Sophomore forward Doug McDermott, who was honored before the game for surpassing 1,000 career points, was held to just 12 points on 12 shots as Indiana State sent double-teams and denied the nation’s second-leading scorer all game long.
“They’re going to make it tough on Doug,” head coach Greg McDermott said. “There were some double teams and [Indiana State] plugged it up pretty good in transition, probably as good as most teams we’ve played.”
But Doug did not allow his frustration on the offensive end to impact his play in other areas, as he hauled in a game-high 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double on the season; the most in the MVC. The attention Doug McDermott received also opened up the rest of the floor for the other players, and they were able to take advantage with 13 of the 14 players who checked into the game having scored.
“The balance was awesome,” Greg McDermott said. “I think we had five guys with six points at halftime. I think we had seven or eight guys that ended up with six points. You have that kind of balance, teams have to decide if it’s worth it to take one or two guys away and let some other guys beat you. Today we had virtually everyone step up and make some solid contributions on offense.”
Creighton also shut down the Sycamores’ offense, as the team gave up just 49 points and held them to 32.7 percent from the field. They also allowed the Sycamores to shoot only 25 percent from 3-point range and forced 12 turnovers.
“I was pleased with our defense,” Greg McDermott said. “I think we took away what we needed to take away, made them take tough shots. They had a hard time scoring around the rim.”
Creighton moved to 18-2 on the season and 8-1 in the MVC with the win and extended its winning streak to eight games. Indiana State dropped to 11-9 on the season and 2-7 in Valley play.
Three days before Creighton beat Indiana State, it traveled to Springfield, Ill., riding a six-game win streak and looking to avenge its conference opening loss to the Missouri State University Bears. The Jays were pushed to the limit in a game that saw 16 ties and 10 lead changes but ultimately emerged victorious behind great defense and a strong showing by junior center Gregory Echenique.
Although Creighton shot very well in the first half, they were never able to pull ahead as Missouri State forced 11 Jays turnovers and hauled in 10 offensive rebounds. After a back-and-forth first 12 minutes, the Jays’ offense stalled as they converted just one field goal in the final 7:59 of the first half, enabling the Bears to take a 34-30 lead into the break.
The Jays continued their excellent shooting in the second half and also cleaned up some of the problems that plagued them in the first 20 minutes; committing just three turnovers and giving up just two offensive rebounds. The back-and-forth play continued, however, and neither team was able to take a commanding lead.
The score was tied at 63 apiece when Gibbs was fouled and sent to the free-throw line. Gibbs split a pair to give Creighton a one-point lead. The Jays’ defense forced two missed shots by the Bears before the ball found its way into Gibbs’ hands again. The junior got into the paint with 1:06 remaining and hit a shot, extending the lead to three. Missouri State answered with a Jarmar Gulley jumpshot to pull within one. Gibbs then turned the ball over, but junior guard Josh Jones forced a miss by the reigning MVC player of the year Kyle Weems and Doug McDermott secured the rebound before getting fouled with six seconds left. Doug McDermott missed the front end of the ensuing one-and-one, giving the Bears one last shot. Anthony Downing — who had torched Creighton for a career-high 26 points in their first meeting — missed a contested jumper and the buzzer sounded, signifying a 66-65 victory for Creighton.
The win snapped a six-game losing streak to the Bears. The Jays remain atop the conference standings along with the Wichita State University Shockers. Missouri State dropped to 11-9 overall and 4-4 in the MVC.
Echenique led the Jays with a game-high 16 points and seven rebounds while Doug McDermott chipped in 15 points. Creighton also received valuable contributions from the team’s 3 freshmen. Center Will Artino scored four points in just three minutes, guard Avery Dingman hit a 3-pointer and point guard Austin Chatman added four points, four rebounds and three assists. The 16 minutes Chatman played were the most he’d seen since the conference season began, and the young guard gave the team a needed spark off the bench.
Weems, who had scored a career-high 31 points the last time the two teams met, was held to just 13 points on 16 shots. Downing scored 14 points on 11 shots.
The Bluejays’ next game is on the road Wednesday night against the Drake University Bulldogs. The game will be televised on KMTV and tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m