Score: Creighton 91, WSU 79
Key stats: The Bluejays made 70.2 percent of their shots (33-47). According to radio voice Mike Kennedy’s research, that is the best shooting against any Shocker team, topping Louisville’s 68.6 percent in a 1968 game.
How the game turned: Creighton’s Ethan Wragge got free for two three-pointers to raise the lead from 55-52 to 61-52 midway through the second half. His baskets started a 14-2 run. The Shockers never got closer than six points after trailing 69-54 with 7:28 remaining.
Records: WSU 24-7, 12-6 MVC; CU 24-7, 13-5
- The first sentence evaluating WSU’s regular season must include the expectations, the turnover, the injuries and how the Shockers beat all of that to play well in the non-conference and finish second in the MVC by one game. The win at VCU is the season’s most important NCAA chip. Building a 19-2 record got WSU ranked and firmly in the NCAA picture.
- The second sentence must detail the one-game lead blown at home against Evansville. The Shockers played so well they raised expectations and ended the season on a downer. Ultimately, the worries about the inexperience turned out to be legitimate. The Shockers weren’t consistent enough to win an MVC title, in a year it was there for the taking. On at least three nights, the Shockers seemed to look at each other and say “I thought it was your night to play well.” That isn’t a surprise on a team with one four-year senior, six new players in the rotation and two starters who missed all 18 MVC games. Two losses at home – Indiana State and Evansville – and at Southern Illinois ruined their title hopes. Losing one or two of those is no shame. A championship team can’t afford that many letdowns. WSU brought that intensity and focus at Creighton and still lost. “This effort. . .would have been good enough to wrap up a co-championship on Wednesday (against Evansville) for us,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “But we didn’t play this well.”
- Like the loss at UNI, beating Creighton was always going to be difficult. It appeared to me that Creighton knocked WSU’s defense off stride with its lobs early in the game and became the aggressor. That helped their shooters get open and WSU couldn’t cover everything. Throw in Doug McDermott’s performance for the ages and the Shockers found themselves in a bad spot. That is the Creighton team that went 17-1. WSU – wrong place, wrong time on Saturday.
- McDermott – 41 points on 18 shots. Didn’t take a bad one.
- As Marshall pointed out, 2013 is similar to last season between WSU and Creighton. In 2012, Creighton won a close game in Koch Arena and WSU came to Omaha and won big late in the season on its way to the MVC title. Creighton, however, won the MVC Tournament and Marshall hopes that set a precedent.
- WSU’s defensive pride should be wounded after the past two games. Creighton and Evansville combined to make 19 of 35 threes. Colt Ryan scored 29. McDermott scored 41. The 91 points are the most given up in regulation by a WSU team since Missouri State defeated the Shockers 95-87 in 2007. A Marshall-coached team gave up 90-plus points in regulation for the second time, first being a 109-96 win over VMI in 2007.
- WSU went 5-4 in February games. It averaged 69.7 points (4th in the MVC), and gave up 65 (4th). It made 45.1 percent of its shots (4th) and 37.4 percent of its threes (3rd). It allowed teams to make 42.7 percent of their shots (3rd) and 38.4 percent of their threes (10th). It led the MVC in rebound margin, defense and offensive rebound percentage. In turnover margin, it ranked seventh (105 turnovers to 105 assists).
- Northern Iowa had the best February, going 7-2 overall and 7-1 in MVC games. Southern Illinois went 6-3, 5-3.
- How important is that VCU win? I looked at the consensus No. 9 and No. 10 seeds (Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Colorado, WSU, Cincinnati, Creighton and Cal) from The Bracket Project. Of those eight teams, WSU and Creighton are the only ones with top-50 non-conference road wins. Three of eight lack any top-50 road wins. You can mold the numbers to make many points, so WSU would be best served by winning at least one more game. Regardless, the VCU win looks like a strong point in its favor.
Next up: vs. MSU or SIU, 6:05 p.m. Friday, MVC Tournament (FSKC)