Indiana St.-Creighton Preview
Although Doug McDermott is undeniably the leader of Creighton, the Missouri Valley Conference leaders are much more than just a one-man team.
The 19th-ranked Bluejays look to build on an encouraging victory and defeat struggling Indiana State at home for a 13th consecutive time Saturday.
McDermott's 23.8 points per game rank second in the nation and his 52.2 3-point percentage ranks fourth, but Creighton (17-2, 7-1) has proven it doesn't need to rely on its prized sophomore to be successful.
Missouri State did its best to take McDermott out of the offense Wednesday night, but its bid to sweep the regular-season series from the Bluejays was denied as Gregory Echenique and Grant Gibbs stepped up.
Echenique had 16 points and seven rebounds, while Gibbs scored nine and shot 4 of 6 from the floor to lift Creighton to a 66-65 victory, its seventh win in a row since losing 77-65 to the Bears in its MVC opener.
"We needed this win,'' Echenique said. "We were getting stops in the second half and defense is our strength. It shows we're improving in that area.''
Echenique was 5 of 6 from the field, made all six of his free throws and the Bluejays improved to 10-0 all-time when he reaches the 15-point mark.
McDermott finished with 15 points and got few open looks with Missouri State pressuring him every chance it got. He had little trouble finding his shot against Indiana State as a freshman last season, totaling 43 points on 56.0 percent shooting as the Bluejays and Sycamores split their two-game series.
Creighton defeated the Sycamores 83-69 in Omaha last January, and has won the last 12 meetings there since a 70-69 loss Jan. 17, 1999. The road losing streak is Indiana State's longest against any MVC rival.
Indiana State (11-8, 2-6) has lost all four of its conference road games this season, but did win at then-No. 25 Vanderbilt 61-55 on Dec. 17, snapping a 10-game losing streak to ranked opponents.
The Sycamores, ninth in the MVC, enter this game losers of three in a row and five of six. They fell 67-54 at Illinois State on Wednesday as they had another disappointing offensive effort.
Jake Odum finished with 15 points but senior guard Dwayne Lathan, who averages a team-best 11.8 points, was Indiana State's second-leading scorer with only eight. Lathan went 3 of 11 from the floor as the Sycamores shot 32.3 percent as a team. They're shooting 37.2 percent and averaging 59.4 points in their last five losses.
That kind of offensive ineptitude doesn't bode well for keeping up with Creighton, which leads the MVC with 81.8 points per game and ranks first in the nation in both field-goal percentage (51.8) and 3-point percentage (45.0). The Bluejays have scored at least 63 points in each game this season, and Indiana State is 4-8 when allowing opponents to reach the 60-point mark.