Sophomore forward Alexis Okin-Atiko stepped up in a big way, in a big game for the Creighton women’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon. The Bluejays overcame 22 turnovers thanks in large part to stifling defense and Akin-Otiko, who scored nine of her team-high 13 points in the second half as the Bluejays defeated the visiting Wichita State Shockers 56-46 to pull within one game of the Shockers for the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title.
Junior guard McKenzie Fujan scored five points, and Creighton came out with great energy on both ends in taking an early 13-6 lead over the Shockers with 11:19 to play in the first half. Wichita State (17-8, 11-2 MVC) then came to life, answering with a 9-0 run and drawing a third foul on Fujan as they took a 15-13 lead with 7:40 remaining.
With Fujan in foul trouble Creighton (18-6, 10-3 MVC) needed their injury-riddled star, junior guard Carli Tritz, to step up and provide the boost in Fujan’s absence. Tritz was up to the challenge, scoring five points off the bench including a three in the deep right corner to pull Creighton within one with 3:55 left in the half. Not long after that she found Creighton’s true freshman phenom, Marissa Janning, cutting on the corner. Janning drained the three to give the Bluejays a 29-25 lead, which they carried into halftime. “Mentally, she is the toughest girl on our team right now dealing with those injuries,” said Janning regarding Tritz. “She makes good passes. She makes good plays. She drives through the paint. She can do almost anything, and she does it with a bum knee. That’s huge and I admire that a lot.”
In the first half against Missouri State where Creighton got all of their 31 points from three players. This time around Creighton had six players with at least four points in the first half, led by six from junior center Alyssa Kamphaus.
Freshman guard Michaela Dapprich led Wichita State with eight points off the bench in the opening 20 minutes.
A late three by Fujan as the shot clock was winding down followed a previous three by Janning as Creighton opened up a double-digit lead, 38-27, just three and half minutes into the second half. After a Wichita State timeout the Bluejays forced a shot clock violation on the ensuing possession. Shortly after that, forward Sarah Nelson grabbed the rebound on a missed three-pointer by Creighton guard Jordan Garrison and kicked it right back out to Garrison who knocked down the three this time to give Creighton its largest lead of the game up to that point at 41-29 with 11:49 left in the second half.
Shocker junior forward Michelle Price fueled a 9-0 run for Wichita. The 6’1 forward scored seven of the nine points and assisted on senior guard Darice Fountaine’s basket during the run that decreased Creighton’s lead to 41-38 with 10:01 to play in the second half.
With the team struggling to score Creighton got rolling again thanks to an unlikely source in the form of Alexis Akin-Otiko. The 5’11 sophomore out of Bellevue West surpassed the previous run by Price by scoring nine of Creighton’s next 11 points and assisting on the other basket. On the defensive end the Bluejays held Wichita State to just four points while Akin-Otiko was taking over on offense. Creighton built a 52-42 lead with 3:24 to play thanks to that seven-minute stretch by the sophomore from Bellevue. Her performance impressed her teammates, “She gets really confident after a couple shots go in. Then ‘Flan’ is telling us to get her a touch. When she hears that she knows that he wants her to score,” said Tritz. Janning, who finished with 12 points and three assists after scoring one point with zero assists in the first matchup against Wichita State, added, “We really needed this win and Alexis played awesome. She stepped up in every way possible. ‘Flan’ told the team that [Wichita] was going to focus on our three-point shooting, so I think ‘Lex’ took that to mean she needed to step up. I don’t know what she didn’t do. She rebounded, she was smart in the post. She ran the floor and played good defense. This is what makes us more confident going in as we finish up our road trips and conference play.”
Akin-Otiko finished the game with team-highs in six statistical categories as she posted 13 points on 6 for 10 shooting. She also grabbed eight rebounds and added three assists, two steals, and two blocked shots. Bluejay head coach Jim Flanery said, “I think once she hit the first [shot] our players were comfortable throwing her the ball. She got confident and made some great plays. I’m really happy for her. She’s hung in there and gotten better this year. With what [Alyssa Kamphuas] did the other night, and what [Akin-Otiko and Kamphaus] did again today we have a chance to better down the stretch and less reliant on the three-pointer. That’s exciting.”
As a team, Creighton held Wichita State to 35.4% shooting and just 46 points. Both season-lows for Wichita State in conference play. Wichita State leading scorer, senior point guard Jessica Diamond, scored a season-low three points on 1 for 7 shooting from the floor.
The Shockers were led by Price who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
With the win Creighton pulled to within one game of Wichita State in the regular season standings. The Bluejays will hit the road for games against Northern Iowa and Bradley before returning home for three straight games against Drake, Evansville, and Southern Illinois to finish out the regular season. Wichita State on the other hand plays their last three regular season games on the road at Illinois State, Indiana State, and Missouri State. Illinois State and Indiana State both defended home court with wins over the Bluejays.
Tip-off for Creighton’s next game is set for 7:00 p.m. Central time on Thursday, February 21 from Cedar Falls, Iowa, as they take on the Northern Iowa Panthers (11-12, 6-5 MVC). Creighton defeated the Panthers 54-40 in Omaha back on January 25th of this year.
Wichita State / Creighton
Score: 46 / 56
FG/FGA/FG%: 17-48 (35.4%) / 22-44 (50.0%)
3FG/3FGA/3FG%: 3-11 (27.3%) / 6-16 (37.5%)
FT/FTA/FT%: 9-14 (64.3%) / 6-7 (85.7%)
Rebounding: 23 (Off: 12, Def: 11) / 33 (Off: 12, Def: 21)
Assists: 11 / 17
Turnovers: 12 / 22
Steals: 10 / 3
Blocks: 4 / 3
Scoring Leaders: Price (15) / Akin-Otiko (13)
Rebounding Leaders: Price (7) / Akin-Otiko, Nelson (8)
Assists Leaders: Diamond, Harden, Fountaine, Turner (2) / Akin-Otiko, Janning (3)
Steals Leaders: Diamond (3) / Akin-Otiko (2)
Blocks Leaders: Harden (3) / Akin-Otiko (2)