After losing two of three road games, and relinquishing control of first place in the Missouri Valley Conference, the 21st-ranked Creighton Bluejays enjoyed the comforts of the CenturyLink Center Omaha Center in a 91-77 victory over Missouri State on Wednesday.
The Bluejays' three-point threats were especially glad to be back home, making 15 of their 28 attempts. Ethan Wragge and Doug McDermott led the long-range assault. Wragge made five of six attempts from beyond the arc, giving him 200 makes in his career, a feat only four other Bluejays have accomplished. McDermott cashed in on five of seven from deep. Creighton failed to make opponents pay for allowing them open looks in losses against Drake and Wichita State, but rebounded nicely at Southern Illinois, and continued that trend in Omaha by shooting better than 50 percent from deep.
"We love shooting here. We've always - knock on wood - we've always shot great here," said McDermott.
After dropping a season-high 39 points in Springfield, the reigning Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year continued to terrorize Missouri State. On Wednesday, McDermott produced another brilliant game totaling 29 points and 10 rebounds. He scored 15 points on threes, eight on two-point baskets, and made six of seven free throws for his game-high 29 points. The junior's all-around game proved to be too much for Paul Lusk's squad for a second time this season.
"He's great. He was great in Springfield, he's great here," said the second-year coach. "I don't know who they play Saturday, but I'll bet he'll be great. He's a very, very good player."
While McDermott is without a doubt the most dangerous Bluejay with the ball in his hands, the Creighton offensive attack as a whole host too much firepower for the Bears to contend with at this point.
"They just keep pounding it inside. They keep pushing it in transition. We tried different things, different schemes to get the ball out of McDermott's hands, then they get you in rotations," said Lusk. "They just get you into rotations and they make you pay."
The man responsible for moving the ball around the perimeter when McDermott passed out of the post, as he did numerous times on Wednesday, was first-year starter Austin Chatman. The six-foot sophomore assumed the role of primary distributor against MSU. He pushed the tempo when given the opportunity, found open shooters, and knocked down most of the shots that came his way en route to his first career double-double, finishing with 14 points and 10 assists. His performance earned the praise of his coach.
"Great floor game, I thought his pace in transition, his decisions in transition were as good as they've been," said McDermott. "I thought he got our team running, and Missouri State is a tough team to run on."
The win puts the Bluejays at 8-2 in conference, and coupled with Wichita State surprisingly dropping a home contest with Indiana State on Tuesday, moved CU back into a tie for first place with the Shockers. With each of the top two teams owning two MVC losses, the pressure will be on both squads not to slip up along the way to their end-of-the-season meeting in Omaha on March 2. Considering the Bluejays' remaining conference slate, which includes road games at Indiana State and Northern Iowa, running the table, if needed, will be a tall order.
"I think we've got a challenging February because of some of the places we have left to go," said Coach McDermott. "You have to win the ones you're supposed to win. It's good to now, at least, be back to where you can control our own destiny. If we take them one at a time and knock them off, we can win a championship."
The Bluejays will have another chance to "win the ones you're supposed to win," on Saturday, when they host Bradley, in the annual "Pink Out" game.