The No. 10 Creighton men’s basketball team fell 67-64 on the road Saturday at Charles Koch Arena against the rival Wichita State University Shockers. The Jays lost despite junior forward Doug McDermott leading all scorers with 25 points in the contest.
Both teams now have records of 17-2 and sit atop the Missouri Valley Conference with 6-1 marks. The conference loss was Creighton’s first since Feb. 11, 2012, when the Jays were downed by the Shockers at home 89-68.
The crowd in Wichita was raucous and the Creighton players took notice.
“The students were there early and everything,” senior center Gregory Echenique said. “It was fun, definitely gives you extra energy.”
Wichita State led wire-to-wire in the first half with superior inside play from senior forward Carl Hall. The closest Creighton came to evening up the contest was 15-14 after a drive and lay-in from senior guard Grant Gibbs. The Shockers ballooned the lead to seven at the 10-minute mark, where it stayed for most of the remaining time in the half. The Jays were able to pull within three before the break on a McDermott triple.
The teams entered halftime at 36-33. Creighton was bolstered by 11 points from McDermott, but they had also missed six shots from the charity stripe.
Wichita State was led by Hall and senior guard Malcolm Armstead, who combined for 21 first-half points. The rest of the Shockers struggled from the field, only managing to shoot 29 percent.
The Jays came out for the second half with a chip on their collective shoulders. Creighton managed to knot up the score 38-38 with 19 minutes left to play after McDermott’s third straight 3-pointer.
Wichita State managed to rally back and grab a six-point lead with 14:45 remaining.
The Jays went on a 7-0 run of their own, beginning with a turnaround McDermott jumper to put the game at 51-47. Junior forward Ethan Wragge connected from outside the arc on the next possession. Sophomore guard Austin Chatman gave Creighton the lead at 52-51 with a mid-range jumper with about 11 minutes left in the game.
There was controversy with 7:40 remaining when Gibbs was called for a flagrant foul after accidentally elbowing a defender while trying to drive. The Shockers held a 58-54 lead with seven minutes left.
McDermott scored consecutive buckets to tie the score at 58 with 6:28 remaining. Wichita State was then able to stretch the lead to 62-58 after a Hall basket.
After grabbing an offensive rebound with 5:49 left, Echenique took a hard fall and left the game momentarily with a wrist injury.
“It was bothering me, but after that, I felt like I did what I was supposed to do,” Echenique said. “I tried to stay focused. I knew the team needed me, especilly in a game that close.”
With 28 seconds remaining, the Jays had pulled within one after Gibbs went 1-2 from the line. Armstead was able to sink both free throws and give the Shockers a three-point lead with 15 seconds left.
Head coach Greg McDermott drew up a play to get Wragge open in the corner, but the sharpshooter failed to hit. After Hall missed two free throws, the Jays had another look to tie, but Wragge missed from deep at the top of the arc as time ran out.
After the game, the elder McDermott was not happy with his team’s mental effort.
“There were just some scouting report things,” the head coach said. “They scored a layup on an out-of-bounds play, a blown assignment led to a layup on a backscreen we knew how to cover and we didn’t cover … Just some intellectual things that we’ve been pretty good at that we didn’t execute as well.”
Doug McDermott, 25 points, and Gibbs, 13 points, were the only Creighton players in double-figures. Echenique had nine points to go along with 13 rebounds and five blocks.
Hall led Wichita State with 16 points.
Greg McDermott is already looking ahead for this season.
“I think we can take another step,” McDermott said. “I think it’s going to be a difficult step, because everybody’s going to have to look in the mirror and squeeze every bit of energy and emotion out of their bodies to get us to reach our potential.”
Echenique echoed the sentiment.
“We can be better for our next game,” the Creighton big man said.
Creighton’s next game will be in Des Moines on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. against the Drake University Bulldogs.