Omaha, NE (Sports Network) - The 21st-ranked Creighton Bluejays get back to
Missouri Valley Conference work on Wednesday evening, as they welcome the
Missouri State Bears to the CenturyLink Center.
Greg McDermott's Bluejays have received plenty of national attention this
season and have set up shop in the top-25, coming into this contest with a
stellar 18-3 overall mark. However, back-to-back conference losses to Wichita
State and Drake on the road has left Creighton a game behind the Shockers in
the conference standings at 7-2. The Bluejays were able to end the skein this
past weekend with an emphatic 81-51 rout of Southern Illinois in Carbondale.
The Bluejays are now back in Omaha, where they sport an 11-1 record at home
Paul Lusk's Bears are struggling in his second season at the helm. Missouri
State enters play with a 6-15 overall record, including a 4-5 mark in
conference play. The team was able to finally bring an end to a four-game
skein on Sunday with a 78-72 victory over Drake at home. The Bears have just
one true road win this season in eight attempts.
Creighton holds a narrow 32-28 lead in the all-time series with Missouri
State, but the Bears have closed the gap with wins in six of the last eight
meetings, including two straight in Omaha. However, it is the Bluejays seeking
the regular-season sweep after posting a 74-52 romp over the Bears back on
The good news for the Bears is that they are coming into this game off one of
their best performances of the season, as they delivered on a season-high 56.3
percent from the floor, overcoming a 10-point deficit in the second half to
earn the come-from-behind victory. Anthony Downing was phenomenal in the win,
matching a career-high with 26 points. Keith Pickins poured in 19 points off
the bench, while Marcus Marshall finished with 12.
The team's strong performance against Drake has not been consistent enough on
the year, as Missouri State comes into this game with a -3.7 scoring margin.
The real problem has been a lack of scoring depth. The Bears are averaging
just 60.2 ppg and doing so on a lackluster .406 shooting. Downing has been the
only real reliable scoring threat, pacing the team with 14.7 ppg. Marshall is
a distant second on the squad at 9.9 ppg.
Smarting from consecutive losses, Creighton made light work of the Salukis on
Sunday in a 30-point romp. The Bluejays put the game away early, shooting a
ridiculous 73.9 percent from the floor in the first half and settling on 63
percent from the floor overall, including 12-of-20 from behind the arc. All-
American Doug McDermott led five Bluejays in double figures, with 21 points.
He completed a double-double with 10 rebounds. Grant Gibbs added 13 points in
support, followed by Gregory Echenique, Jahenns Manigat and Ethan Wragge, who
posted 12 points apiece. Echenique joined McDermott with a double-double of
his own, grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds.
McDermott is clearly the straw that stirs the drink in Omaha, as the 6-8
senior is shooting .564 from the floor overall, .500 from 3-point range (44-
of-88) and is averaging 23.7 points (second nationally) and 7.2 rebounds per
game. Echenique isn't the flashy scorer McDermott is at just 10.0 ppg, but he
does lead the team in rebounding (7.5 rpg), blocked shots (36) and ranks among
the nation's best in field-goal percentage (.664). Wragge (8.9 ppg) and Gibbs
(8.1 ppg, 6.0 apg) are valuable assets as well. Creighton is averaging 78.6
ppg this season on the strength of the nation's best field-goal percentage
(.519) and 3-point accuracy (.448).
The Sports Network