ST. LOUIS —
After Creighton had been beaten by Indiana State by 19 points in a Feb. 6 game at Hulman Center, it was clear that the motivated Bluejays wanted to throw the first punch in Saturday’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament rematch.
The problem for ISU was that Creighton never stopped punching.
The No. 1-seeded Bluejays walloped No. 5-seeded Indiana State 64-43 at Scottrade Center to move on to today’s MVC Tournament championship game.
The final score wasn’t indicative of how dominant Creighton was in the first 20 minutes. With 4:37 left to go in the first half, the Bluejays had a 28-point lead.
“Coach always talks about throwing the first punch; today is a great example of what that means. We came out strong and never let down. We let them know we came to play,” Creighton center Gregory Echenique said.
ISU coach Greg Lansing had expressed concern Friday that ISU’s rout over Creighton might come back to haunt the Sycamores. Those fears proved to be well-founded.
The inspired Bluejays played at a high level on both ends of the floor in the first half. The Bluejays shot 61.5 percent from the field, including 72.7 percent from 3-point range.
ISU shot 26.5 percent overall and never got untracked in the face of Creighton’s withering defense.
The Sycamores never knew what hit them.
“They’re just a good team. We didn’t do things we needed to do defensively and it got them rolling,” ISU forward R.J. Mahurin said. “I think they shot 70-something percent early and just put us in the hole and we were never able to get momentum.”
It was clear that the Bluejays (26-7) hadn’t forgotten their humiliating 76-57 loss to ISU just over a month ago.
“It played a huge part because we weren’t satisfied, obviously, leaving Terre Haute. We got our tails kicked, and we were glad we got a chance to play them again,” said Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who led all scorers with 25 points, including a 6-of-7 performance from 3-point range.
The blood was in the water from the start. Jahenns Manigat hit a 3-pointer to get Creighton — and its raucous fans — started. And on a day where the Bluejays had their blood up, ISU compounded its problems by not getting out to McDermott on the perimeter.
ISU was late to get to the All-American on four different occasions in the first 10 minutes and each time the junior made ISU pay the price with 3-point buckets. McDermott would go on to make six of his seven first-half field goal attempts and scored 18 by halftime.
“Doug was slipping his ball screens. We’re always switching those. They were slipping him a lot and we were almost running into each other. One guy was trying to switch and the other guy wasn’t. A large part goes to their game plan and their prep coming into it,” Lansing said.
A McDermott 3-pointer at 9:28 made it 24-9. Then, believe it or not, Creighton kicked it into an even higher gear and raised their game to an intergalactic level.
Creighton scored on seven of eight possessions up to the 4:37 mark to build a 39-11 advantage. At the end of the 18-0 run, the Bluejays were shooting 71 percent from field and were 80 percent (8 of 10) from 3-point range.
“We have a computer system a lot of schools use called Synergy. You plug everything in, all their offensive numbers, and every category, they’re considered excellent. Inside, outside, three-point shooting, penetration, offensive boards. It’s kind of crazy,” Lansing said.
ISU had no response on its end as the Bluejays were equally inspired on the defensive end. The Sycamores created few good looks for themselves, and when they did, shots did not fall. ISU only converted six field goals in the first half.
By the time an excruciating opening 20 minutes was done, ISU trailed 41-18.
“We’ve had halves we’ve played really well. Given the stage that we’re on today, I would say that was our best half of basketball,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
ISU (18-14) outscored Creighton 25-23 in the second half, but it mattered little as Creighton’s first-half dominance assured that the Bluejays held sway.
Manny Arop led ISU with 13 points, the only Sycamore to reach double-figure scoring. Brandon Burnett had a career-high eight points.
ISU’s season is not done. The Sycamores still have a chance to be chosen for the National Invitation Tournament. If ISU is not chosen for the NIT, it will play in the College Basketball Invitational or CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
INDIANA STATE (43) — Arop 5-11 3-4 13, Mahurin 1-7 0-0 2, Gant 1-4 3-4 5, Cummings 2-4 0-0 5, Odum 1-3 3-3 5, Kitchell 0-5 2-2 2, Eitel 0-3 0-0 0, Brown 0-3 1-2 1, R. Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Burnett 2-4 4-4 8, K. Smith 1-5 0-0 2. Totals 13-49 FG, 16-19 FT, 43 TP.
CREIGHTON (64) — McDermott 8-10 3-3 25, Echenique 5-6 0-0 10, Chatman 2-4 0-0 5, Gibbs 2-3 2-2 6, Manigat 2-7 2-2 8, Stormberg 0-0 0-0 0, Yates 0-1 2-2 2, Dingman 0-2 0-0 0, Groselle 0-0 0-0 0, Johnson 1-2 0-0 2, Artino 2-7 0-2 4, Wragge 0-0 0-0 0, Olsen 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 23-43 FG, 9-11 FT, 64 TP.
Halftime score — CU 41-18. 3-point goals — ISU 1-13 (Cummings 1-2, Mahurin 0-4, Eitel 0-2, Arop 0-1, Kitchell 0-1, Brown 0-1, Burnett 0-1, K. Smith 0-1), CU 9-18 (McDermott 6-7, Manigat 2-6, Chatman 1-2, Dingman 0-2, Yates 0-1). Rebounds — ISU 28 (Team 6, Arop 4, Kitchell 4, Burnett 4, Mahurin 3, Odum 3, Gant, Eitel, Brown, K. Smith), CU 29 (McDermott 9, Manigat 4, Artino 4, Echenique 3, Chatman 2, Gibbs 2, Dingman, Groselle, Johnson, Wragge, Team), Assists — ISU 6 (Odum 3, Gant, Eitel, Brown), CU 17 (Gibbs 5, Chatman 4, Manigat 3, McDermott, Echenique, Stormberg, Dingman, Groselle), Steals — ISU 7 (Mahurin 2, Odum 2, Cummings, Eitel), CU 5 (Gibbs 2, Yates 2, McDermott), Blocks — ISU 1 (Mahurin), CU 1 (Echenique), Turnovers — ISU 11 (Odum 4, Kitchell 2, Brown 2, Arop, Mahurin, K. Smith), CU 14 (McDermott 5, Chatman 2, Yates 2, Echenique, Gibbs, Stormberg, Johnson, Team), Total fouls — ISU 13, CU 18.
Next — Creighton (26-7) will play in the MVC Tournament championship game today. ISU (18-14) awaits its postseason fate.