Senior guard Grant Gibbs’ lob to fellow senior center Gregory Echenique ignited the 17,694 fans at CenturyLink Center Omaha, as the Jays took a 53-51 lead with just under 10 minutes to play.
The Gibbs to Echenique alley-oop was part of a 16-2 run giving the Jays a 65-53 lead with less than five minutes showing on the clock.
“Sometimes we get that one big play and get a lot of energy and everybody just feeds off of that,” Echenique said.
The No. 11 Jays would maintain their distance and lead by as many as 15 in the final minute before winning Saturday’s contest against the Indiana State University Sycamores 79-66.
With the victory, the Jays improved to 14-1 overall and 3-0 in Missouri Valley Conference play.
The loss dropped Indiana State to 9-5 overall and 2-1 in MVC contests.
Junior All-American forward Doug McDermott led the Jays with 25 points and nine rebounds. Echenique added 16 points to go along with 9 boards and four blocks.
Echenique scored 11 of his points in the second half.
“Gregory was outstanding the second half,” Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said.
The Jays outscored the Sycamores 52-39 in the second half, sinking 16 field goals off of 14 assists.
Creighton went 12-15 from the charity stripe in the final 20 minutes, as Indiana State hit only nine of 18 in the second half.
The Jays finished the game shooting 55 percent (27-49) from the field including 50 percent (11-22) from beyond the arc.
“Their stats don’t lie,” Indiana State head coach Greg Lansing said. “That’s what they do every game. They shoot the ball well, they take care of it, they don’t turn it over, they share it, they get the ball to the right people at the right times [and] they counter anything you try to do.”
Indiana State came into came into Saturday afternoon’s game winners of five of their last six including victories over Ole Miss University and the University of Miami (Fla.) in the Diamond Head Classic held in Hawaii. They also opened Valley play with wins over Illinois State University and the University of Northern Iowa.
“Indiana State’s good, in case anybody’s wondering,” McDermott said. “That’s a disciplined basketball team and I understand now why they came close to winning three games in Hawaii and started the league 2-0.”
The first half played into the hands of the Sycamores. The Jays were forced into long possessions and were held to 27 points in the opening 20 minutes of action.
Indiana State used a 9-0 run to take a 27-21 lead with 3:03 to play in the first half, but the Sycamores went cold missing their final seven shots. The Jays to use a 6-0 run of their own to tie the game at 27 heading into the locker room.
Indiana State came into Saturday’s game averaging 68.2 points per game and holding opponents to 65.8. Seven of the Sycamores previous nine victories came when holding their opponent to less than 63 points.
Less than eight seconds into the second half, McDermott hit a 3-point field goal to give the Jays their first lead since the 6:03 mark in the first half.
McDermott hit another jumper from the right wing before Indiana State went on a 10-0 run over the next 1:24 to take a 39-32 lead.
Echenique ended the outpour with a monster dunk.
Junior forward R.J. Mahurin made one of two from the line to give the Sycamores a six-point lead.
After being held off the score sheet in the first half junior guard Jahenns Manigat and junior forward Ethan Wragge hit a pair of trey balls to tie the game at 40.
A free throw by sophomore point guard Austin Chatman put the Jays ahead, but Indiana State countered with two lay-ups to take a three-point lead, 44-41.
With 13:44 to play in the second half, McDermott picked up his third foul and was forced to take a seat.
With McDermott on the bench, Wragge stepped up and hit two 3-point field goals getting the sellout crowd at CenturyLink Center Omaha out of their seats.
“I knew Ethan would come in and do his job,” McDermott said. “It’s exciting to watch.”
“I think Ethan adds such an element that I think other teams are scared,” coach McDermott said. “They don’t want to leave him, so that creates openings inside.”
The Sycamores took their final lead of the game, 51-49 after a jumper by junior guard Jake Odum.
Odum and junior forward Manny Arop led the Sycamores with 13 points apiece.
Four straight points from Echenique gave the Jays the lead for the remainder of the game.
In 5:08 with the All-American on the bench, the Jays used a 15-8 run to take a 56-52 lead.
“Doug’s a fabulous player, but we’re more than a no man show,” coach McDermott said, “Ethan Wragge would start for every other team at our level and a lot of teams about our level. He’s that good.
“We really have six starters, and you could argue that the way Avery (Dingman)’s playing that we have seven.”
Wragge finished the game with nine points making 3-6 from downtown. Dingman finished with six points and three assists in 26 minutes, his most game-time as a Bluejay.
The Jays have played unselfish basketball all season. Creighton averages 17.8 assists out of 29.5 made field goals per game.
The Bluejays’ backcourt had 22 assists and committed only five turnovers Saturday afternoon.
Chatman led the Jays with nine assists to go along with 13 points.
Indiana State outscored the Jays 11-2 in second chance points in the first half, but the Jays outscored the Sycamores 17-2 in the same category in the second 20 minutes.
All nine players who saw court action for Indiana State scored.
“We played well defensively in the first half, weren’t great offensively, turned it over a lot, and gave up offensive rebounds,” coach McDermott said. “In the second half, we played good offensively, we weren’t very good defensively, but we rebounded better and didn’t turn the ball over. Now it’s my challenge and our coaching staff to find a way to put that all together for 40 minutes to be a little more consistent.”
The Jays are back in action Tuesday night, hosting the Drake University Bulldogs (6-8, 0-3 in MVC) at 7:05 p.m. at CenturyLink Center Omaha.