Illinois St.-Creighton Preview

It remains to be seen if emotions will stay elevated between

Illinois State and Creighton following a testy finish to their

meeting a few weeks ago.

Either way, the 13th-ranked Bluejays and star Doug McDermott

show no signs of lowering their level of play.

Creighton will be chasing an 11th straight victory Wednesday

night in Omaha, where the atmosphere figures to be a bit more

friendly to the Missouri Valley Conference’s top team than it was

in Normal.

Redbirds fans threw debris on the court Jan. 13 after a series

of technical fouls ended their team’s chance to knock off the

Bluejays (20-2, 10-1).

Johnny Hill missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the score

with 33 seconds left, then committed a hard foul on the ensuing

possession that led to three technicals and a deceptive 87-78 final

margin.

Although McDermott had a below-average game in terms of scoring

with 20 points, he was typically efficient in hitting 9 of 14 from

the field. The nation’s third-leading scorer (23.5 ppg) has gone 10

of 14 in each of his last two games, boosting his field-goal

percentage to 61.7.

Only three players in the last 10 seasons have finished with a

better rate while averaging more than 20 points. All stood taller

than McDermott’s 6-foot-7 frame, and two – Blake Griffin and Andrew

Bogut – went on to become No. 1 overall NBA draft picks.

The other, Chris Kaman, was chosen sixth after his Central

Michigan team ousted then-No. 15 Creighton in the first round of

the 2003 NCAA tournament.

“They have got a team that has a chance to make a run because

every night that they step on the floor, they basically have the

best player,” Bradley coach Geno Ford said after the Bluejays’

73-59 win Saturday.

“I’m not talking in Valley games. I don’t care who they get in

the (NCAA) tournament, they’re going to have the best player almost

every night. And their other guys are capable shooters.”

The Bluejays lead the nation in shooting at 51.4 percent, and

Illinois State (14-8, 6-5) found out about their supporting cast

the hard way in the first meeting.

Four Creighton players other than McDermott scored at least 12

points, with Jahenns Manigat and Ethan Wragge combining to go 8 for

11 from 3-point range.

“I was amazed we were only down a possession with less than a

minute to go,” Redbirds coach Tim Jankovich said that night.

He could largely thank Bryant Allen for that. The junior guard

scored 29 points in that game – 15 more than he’s tallied in any of

his 10 other contests.

“We had no answer for Allen,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott

said. “None. He beat us off the dribble. He beat us off the screen.

He’s just a very good player and he showed it.”

The Bluejays also should devote plenty of attention to Jackie

Carmichael, who has averaged 22.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in

leading the Redbirds to consecutive victories over Missouri State

and Southern Illinois.

Illinois State rolled over the visiting Salukis 60-40 on

Saturday, but it’s just 2-5 on the road this season and 3-10 at

Creighton since 1999.

The Redbirds have dropped 22 in a row against ranked opponents

dating back to 1987.