Despite a late second half rally by No. 12 Creighton, the Bluejays fell Wednesday night on the road to Drake University 69-74 in a Missouri Valley Conference thriller.
Creighton, who was coming off a road loss to Wichita State University by three points Saturday, could not finish the game on top after overcoming its largest deficit of the season at 16 points.
Creighton is 93-59 all time against Drake and head coach Greg McDermott was going for his 70th win in the third year as coach for the Bluejays.
The Bluejays started the game strong shooting from the field behind junior forward and Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott, who had 17 first half points. However, Drake junior guard Richard Carter scored 12 points off the bench before half time and rallied the Bulldogs to an astonishing 44-28 lead over Creighton.
Creighton went 0-7 from behind the arc and only had two bench points going into halftime compared to Drake staying hot from three and having 25 bench points.
The poor 3-point shooting performance is uncharacteristic for this Bluejays team who leads the nation in 3-point shooting with 43.5 percent behind the arc. Shooting the three is “part of who we are so we need to knock those down,” head coach Greg McDermott said going into halftime.
Drake attacked the rim frequently in the first 20 minutes, which allowed great opportunity for kick-out threes and ball movement.
“We need to knock them out of rhythm,” McDermott went on to say. He described his team as being “stuck in the mud” when it came to ball movement early on.
Creighton started the second half off strong behind senior guard Grant Gibbs, who made a couple of threes to start the half. The Bluejays picked up momentum from improved second half shooting to retake the lead with seven minutes remaining.
When the Bluejays recaptured the lead at 63-62 with seven minutes left, the game became very physical for both teams as Drake retook the lead shortly after.
After a back and forth battle, Gibbs scored a late three-point play with 32 seconds left to reduce the Bluejays’ deficit to just two as Drake still led 69-71. Creighton then brought its full court press and junior guard Jahenns Manigat deflected the ball from a Drake player and called timeout to secure another valuable possession for the Jays with 25.3 seconds left in the ball game.
Creighton then inbounded the ball and Gibbs missed a contested layup with seven seconds in the game, forcing the Jays to foul. Drake hit late free throws and held on to win as Bulldog fans stormed their home court with a final score of 69-74. Drake hands Creighton its third loss of the season as Drake improves to 9-10 on the year.
McDermott finished 8-18 from the field, 0-6 from three and had team-high 19 points for the Blue Jays. Carter, who came off the bench for Drake, finished 7-9 from the field, 2-2 from three and had a game high 20 points despite averaging 8 points a game for the season.
Although Gibbs had no points in the first half, Gibbs contributed heavily to Creighton’s second half run with 18 points to end the game. He also had game high eight assists for the Jays.
Only six players scored for the Bluejays while Drake had eight players with points. Creighton committed 21 personal fouls on the game to only 15 from Drake, which proved costly down the stretch.
Speaking on the loss after the game, Gibbs said, “It was an effort thing and a concentration thing. We are not good enough to just walk on out there.”
Coach McDermott also added, “Attention to detail defensively and our effort on the backboards was not where it needed to be.”
Creighton gave up 10 offensive rebounds which the Bulldogs took advantage of.
Wednesday night’s game had a very different ending compared to the two teams’ first meeting just 15 days earlier with Creighton winning easily against Drake 91-31 at home in Omaha.
Creighton is now 17-3 on the season and 6-2 in the Missouri Valley Conference trailing Wichita State who took over first place with a win against Creighton Saturday. Creighton will look to bounce back in their next game Sunday as they go on the road to play the 8-11 Southern Illinois University Salukis at 7 p.m.