Welcome to the Missouri Valley Conference where anything and everything can happen. Creighton experienced this phenomena against Missouri State on Wednesday night as the Bears knocked down the doors of the CenturyLink Center and stole all the candy knocking off the Bluejays 77-65.
Anthony Downing had a career high for Missouri State with 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting. While Creighton contained reigning Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, Kyle Weems, in the first half to 6 points on 3-of-9 shooting in the first half, Downing had 11 points at the half to keep Missouri State in the game as it looked like Creighton might pull away early in the game. Missouri State head coach Paul Lusk was forced to take a few early timeouts as the Bluejays got themselves an eight point lead with 8:21 to go in the first half. You could tell Creighton was a little out of sync to even get that lead, but the hope was that they could somehow extend the lead by halftime.
Unfortunately for the Bluejays, Missouri State made a comeback and cut the lead to two going into the half. In the second half, Creighton was not ready for the continued play of Downing and the explosion of Weems.
Weems came out in the second half to score 25 of his game high 31 points, almost in Doug McDermott style shooting from everywhere on the court. At the same time, Creighton got a gut check and didn’t respond. It was eerily similar to the St. Joseph’s game, but instead on the road, it was on Creighton’s own home court.
The knock on Creighton this season has been its defense. Fortunately for the Bluejays they have been able to outscore their opponents. Things didn’t go quite as planned on Wednesday night as shots were not going down like they had been and Missouri State played a defense that was pretty focused–knocking balls away and diving for loose balls. You sort of knew the Bears would have a little more fire after the losses in Las Vegas.
They also held Doug McDermott to 19 points, breaking the streak of 10 consecutive games with 20 or more. Grant Gibbs got introduced to Valley play with 4 turnovers. Antoine Young was 3-of-13 from the field. Outside of McDermott, the rest of the starters were 6-of-25 from the field. McDermott was even 8-of-18. The one thing Creighton did win on the night was the dribbling contest. They had a lot of it going on.
Back on the defensive side of things, what has been pretty obvious since the beginning of the season is that the renamed CenturyLink Center has been a boon to a lot of players that have passed through this season in five of the seven home games. Not only did Downing and Weems have huge nights, but here are the others that have just tore up the Bluejays this season at home:
- Jeremy Robinson, Chicago State: 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting
- Eric Griffin, Campbell: 29 points and 14 rebounds
- Bo Spencer, Nebraska: 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting
- Drew Crawford: 34 points on 13-of-17 shooting
Those performances were at or near career highs for those players. If Creighton is going to have any success this season in the Valley, they will have to fill some of those holes on defense. But at the same time, that is not much of a surprise. The offense has carried the load. Unfortunately, in MVC play, relying on offense may not work.
Now, Creighton heads to Wichita State on Saturday where many have had this date circled on their calendar for a while. After the Shockers dismantled Bradley 90-51 to open their MVC play, the Bluejays could be headed into a hornets nest at Koch Arena. They could start 0-2 and it will be an uphill battle the rest of the season. Did Missouri State set the blueprint on how to stop Creighton? It is hard to tell. Now we’ll have to see how they respond.
But, in the Valley, you never know what is going to happen. This year’s race will probably prove that.