OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Creighton is the nation’s top 3-point shooting team, but you wouldn’t know it lately.
The 16th-ranked Bluejays made only 4 of 23 attempts in a 75-72 loss to Illinois State on Saturday night, their third straight dismal performance from beyond the arc.
Creighton is shooting 43.2 percent for the season but is 21 of 72 (29.1 percent) in the last three games. Doug McDermott said he and his teammates are going to keep firing away.
“We’ve been making them all year,” McDermott said. “It was a rough night. A lot of us shooters are preparing the same way we do before other games. We know they’re going to fall.”
The Bluejays (20-5, 9-4) lost their second straight, falling into a three-way tie with Wichita State and Indiana State for first in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Tyler Brown scored 23 of his 27 points in the second half for Illinois State (15-10, 6-7), which has won six of seven after losing its first six Valley games.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott said he had no problem with his team’s effort like he did after Wednesday’s’ 76-57 loss at Indiana State.
“Without question we had a few mental mistakes at times that led to some easy baskets,” he said. “(Illinois State) is going to make some tough shots. That’s how they play. Tyler Brown made some tough ones down the stretch and Johnny Hill made some tough perimeter shots, which hadn’t been his forte.
“We made a few too many mistakes on a night when we didn’t shoot the ball well at all from the 3-point line.”
Illinois State made things interesting at the end. After Creighton’s Grant Gibbs hit two free throws to make it 75-72, Illinois State’s John Wilkins was called for double dribbling just before the buzzer. One second was put back on the clock, and Ethan Wragge’s long pass to McDermott at mid-court was bobbled as time ran out.
Hill had 19 points and Jackie Carmichael added 16 for the Redbirds.
McDermott scored 24 points and had 13 rebounds to lead the Bluejays, who shot 38 percent and made just 4 of 23 from 3-point range. Gibbs added 16 points and Jahenns Manigat had 11.
Illinois State, which lost 79-72 to the Bluejays at home on Jan. 2, beat Creighton for the first time in seven games.
Creighton outrebounded Illinois State 48-29 and held a 23-11 advantage in offensive rebounds. But the Redbirds shot 49 percent and committed only six turnovers.
The Bluejays came into the game as the nation’s top 3-point shooting team but missed 16 of their first 18 attempts. Their four 3s were a season low.
Brown, who missed 4 of his 5 shots in the first half, put Illinois State ahead 48-44 with a layup and back-to-back 3s early in the second. Then Creighton’s Nevin Johnson went on a personal 6-0 run that he finished with a transition layup off a McDermott pass for a 50-48 lead.
Brown scored every which way to keep Creighton from gaining control. On nine of 10 Illinois State baskets over a 12-minute stretch of the second half, Brown was the player who put the ball in the hole. He converted a lob from Johnny Hill into an easy basket for a 60-57 lead, and his 3-pointer made it 65-60 with just over 6 minutes to play.
McDermott and Gibbs pulled the Bluejays to 65-64, but then Hill hit only his second 3-pointer of the season to make it a four-point game.
The Bluejays had their chances to come back. But Wragge shot an airball from long range then fumbled a Gibbs pass underneath the basket on the next possession.
Hill made a shot that swirled around the cylinder twice before slowly dropping through for an eight-point lead with 1:22 left. Gibbs made a 3-pointer, but Bryant Allen made a free throw to make it a six-point game.
After Gibbs cut the lead in half with another 3, Avery Dingman fouled Hill with 35 seconds left. Hill missed the front end of the one-and-one. Gibbs’ 3-point try went in and out. Wragge got the rebound and passed to Manigat, whose long shot bounced off the backboard.
Hill was fouled with 11.6 seconds left and made both free throws to put the Redbirds up by five.