Score: WSU 67, Creighton 64
Key stats: The Shockers took 71 shots (to Creighton’s 55) because it grabbed 22 offensive rebounds (after missing 44 shots) and turned the ball over a season-low seven times.
How the game turned: WSU held Creighton to three points in the final five minutes. Doug McDermott’s three cut WSU’s lead to 62-61 with 5:19 remaining. Creighton didn’t score again until McDermott’s jumper with 2:23 to play made it 64-63. Grant Gibbs’ free throw with 24 seconds remaining cut the lead to 65-64. Those defensive stands – against the nation’s best shooting team – made the difference.
Records: CU 17-2, 6-1 MVC; WSU 17-2, 6-1
- Big picture first. WSU moved up to No. 14 in the RPI and is 6-1 against the top 100, 3-0 vs. the top 50. The Shockers needed another big win on their resume to go with VCU and now they have one. It’s all about seeding in the NCAA Tournament now and the Shockers are in position for a good one. They were a consensus No. 8 in the latest Bracket Project compilation. That will rise and the trend is up. As a side note – that game at Intrust is paying off. Southern Miss is No. 40 in the RPI and on a seven-game win streak.
- The MVC race is saved. WSU held serve at home. Creighton gets an edge going forward because it gets WSU at home. WSU gets an edge because its road schedule has been slightly tougher than Creighton’s to this point (and could look better pending today’s Drake-Northern Iowa game). CU’s road wins are at 0-6 Illinois State and 3-4 Missouri State. WSU’s are at 4-3 Bradley and 2-4 Drake. Creighton’s other chip is a home win over Indiana State, the MVC’s third-place team at 5-2.
- Tekele Cotton continues to be the rare player who doesn’t let his offense affect defense. He had one of the best 0-for-10 games possible. “Just because he doesn’t make shots, that doesn’t mean he’s not playing a great game,” guard Malcolm Armstead said. “He made winning plays. You need those type players to win big-time games.” Cotton grabbed eight rebounds and played great defense on Doug McDermott, despite giving up five inches of height. Creighton wasn’t able to get McDermott the ball in the post to take advantage because of Cotton’s denying defense.
- Cotton joined Carl Hall and Cleanthony Early in a solid defensive effort on McDermott. Perhaps most important, that trio did not foul McDermott. He averages 6.5 free throws a game. He took two on Saturday. McDermott, who scored 25 points and made 10 of 19 shots, had a very good scoring game. He did not have a great scoring game, and that might have been the difference. By my count, he took five threes and and five shots in the lane. That leaves nine shots outside the lane, which is where you want him shooting from. Run him off threes. Don’t let him post up, where he is most likely to draw fouls. Especially in the second half, he took jumpers from inside the arc. He made them, but WSU gave up two points, not three, and isn’t likely to foul him when he is shooting jumpers.
- McDermott impressed the Shockers with his improvement from the past two seasons. “He’s improved dramatically,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “When you can stare down people and just pull, like he’s doing, that’s, I’m not saying he’s Larry Bird, but that’s what guys at that level do. He’s added that to his game.” Armstead faced Creighton three times in the CBI two seasons ago. “His faceup game is a lot better,” Armstead said. “He can take you off the dribble a little more.”
- WSU’s Demetric Williams won his 98th game, tying Garrett Stutz, Toure Murry and David Kyles for the most in a four-season career.
Next up: at Missouri State, 7 p.m. Wednesday