Missouri State beats No. 21 Creighton 77-65
OMAHA, Neb. (AP)
The Bears, picked to finish sixth despite winning the regular-season championship last season, opened defense of its title with a 77-65 upset of No. 21 Creighton on Wednesday night.
Kyle Weems scored 25 of his career-high 31 points in the second half and Anthony Downing had a career-high 26 points in his first start for the Bears (8-5, 1-0).
First-year Missouri State coach Paul Lusk said he hasn't used the middle-of-the-pack prediction for the Bears as a motivational tool. Lusk said the pick is about right. After all, Weems is the only returning player with significant experience.
But it looks like this could be a pretty good bunch of Bears, too.
''We've played a tough schedule, and we needed to get one of these,'' Lusk said. ''It's a new season, and what's our identity going to be? Our identity has to be taking care of the basketball, guarding people, getting those 50-50 balls. I thought we did that tonight.''
The game was billed as a matchup between Doug McDermott, the national scoring leader at 25.4 points a game, against Weems, the reigning MVC player of the year.
Each scored six points the first half, and they battled back and forth early in the second half. Then Weems took over.
McDermott scored only one of his 19 points in the last 10 minutes. Weems scored 17 points over the same stretch and made 5 of his last 7 shots as the Bears pulled away.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott had said before the game that he feared Weems was due to have a breakout game after the Bears had lost five of their last eight. Weems has had a relatively quiet start to the season. He came in averaging 14.3 points, shooting just 39 percent from the field and with three 20-point games.
''I know what I'm capable of doing,'' Weems said. ''I give credit to my coaches to put me in position to be successful and to my teammates for giving me the ball. It's not a one-man thing. It's five guys playing, and we need all 13 or 14 on the roster to be successful.''
Doug McDermott had his streak of 20-point games end at 10 for Creighton (10-2, 0-1). He was 8 of 18 from the field.
His 3-pointer with 10:39 left gave the Bluejays a short-lived 51-50 lead. He took only three shots the rest of the way, missing them all.
Guarded by Weems and freshman Christian Kirk, McDermott struggled to even get shots. Some of the ones he took were ill-advised.
''Whenever I put it on the floor and tried driving the hoop, they collapsed,'' he said. ''I feel I let us down. I got in there and threw up some tough shots I shouldn't have taken.''
Downing, a transfer from Independence (Kan.) Community College, had scored in double figures in six of his 12 previous games. He made 11 of 14 shots from the field, including 4 of 6 3-pointers.
''I was really hyped to play in front of all those people,'' Downing said. ''I just stayed aggressive. I don't want to get too high. I wanted to stay calm and play my game.''
Ethan Wragge's two free throws tied it at 57 with 6:55 left and got the crowd on its feet. Grant Gibbs could have given the Bluejays the lead after he made a steal and got fouled. But he missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and Michael Bizoukas went the length of the court for a left-handed layup to give the Bears the lead for good.
Downing's 23-footer as the shot clock ran out with 1:11 left gave the Bears a six-point lead.
''I really believe in Anthony,'' Lusk said. ''He has a lot of tools. When he starts to get it figured out, he's going to continue to get better. He just has to be consistent for us. Is he going to get 26 for us every night? I don't know. But when we have him on the floor, he can make a play for us.''
Jarmar Gulley added 12 points for the Bears along with five rebounds, an assist, a block and three steals.
Missouri State won for the first time in six road games against ranked teams. Preseason MVC favorite Creighton lost at home as a ranked team for the first time in 19 games since 1975.
''They came into our house and punched us in the mouth,'' Greg McDermott said, ''and we didn't do anything about it.''