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Ott’s Thoughts: Drake 74, #17 Creighton 69

Ott's Thoughts Presented by State Farm -- Talk to Bluejay Alum Grant MussmanLike Doug McDermott, I was sick to my stomach last night. Not because I had the flu, though. The churning started when it became evident early in the evening that unlike their performance in Omaha a few weeks ago, the Drake Bulldogs were ready to hit some shots. The sick feeling worsened as the first half wore on, and as the Bulldogs caught fire from the field while the Bluejays couldn’t score enough to keep up. Like McDermott, with the Jays down 16, I felt at halftime like a good hurl was in my best interests. And while the symptoms subsided for a stretch during the second half, time that saw the Jays erase the halftime deficit and take a lead, Drake’s victory and the fans’ subsequent floor-storming sent me reeling.

For so many reasons, Creighton wasn’t supposed to lose last night. But yet another trip to the Knapp Center resulted in a nail-biter, and one that the Bluejays would drop. That the flu hit McDermott last evening was just one of the more frustrating developments that coalesced to create a second consecutive loss by the Jays. A few others:

Creighton’s bench being upstaged by the Bulldog subs: Drake outscored CU 43-14 off the bench. The DU bench outrebounded CU’s subs 14-6.

Richard Carter scored a season-high 20 points and matched a season-high with 7 rebounds; he entered the night averaging 8.5 points and 2.2 boards per game.

Jeremy Jeffers scored 11 against the Jays, just the third time all season he’s been in double figures (averaged 3.2 ppg entering the game).

And Daddy Ugbede, who had scored 19 points total in league play entering Wednesday night, put 12 up against the Jays; he averaged 2.3 ppg before that (he added 5 rebounds, matching a season high).

Meanwhile, Ethan Wragge couldn’t warm up (2-7 from the field, all of which were three-point makes/attempts) and Avery Dingman couldn’t get on the floor (tied for a season-low 8 minutes). Will Artino saw 10 minutes of action with Gregory Echenique battling foul trouble, and the sophomore from Iowa didn’t miss a shot while scoring 8 points, grabbing 3 rebounds, blocking a shot, and coming up with 2 timely steals. But the Bluejay reserves couldn’t provide the spark needed to support the starting five.

Creighton’s cold shooting creating a hole from which to dig out: The Bluejays led 20-19 with 9 minutes to play in the first half. A 25-8 run by Drake in the last 9 minutes left Creighton down 16 at the break.

Two McDermott layups, one by Echenique, and a free throw each by Austin Chatman and McDermott were all the offense for the Jays during that stretch. Meanwhile, CU missed 9 field goal attempts and two free throws (the second of which was the first of a one-and-one chance).

The Jays also committed three turnovers during the last 90 seconds of the half, during which time the Bulldogs took a single-digit game and made the margin 16 points at the break.

Creighton’s 28 first-half points matched the second-worst scoring output for the first 20 minutes all season; remarkably, though, Creighton was tied at or led the other two times.

Drake’s 44 first-half points were the most surrendered by the Jays in the first 20 minutes all season.

The Bluejays being outrebounded: Before last weekend, opponents had beaten Creighton on the boards just three times in 18 games (17-1 in that span, with the loss coming in one of those three games). But in the past two games (both losses) the Jays are a combined minus-11 on the glass, having being outrebounded by Wichita State and Drake.

Just how bad was the board work Wednesday? Two weeks ago, in Creighton’s 30-point win against the Bulldogs, the Jays outrebounded Drake by 18 caroms. Eighteen.

With McDermott ailing and Echenique on the bench in foul trouble, Grant Gibbs took it upon himself to try to keep the Bluejays in the game. He scored all 18 of his points in the second half, further filling a box score that already includes 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, and a blocked shot. He converted a three-point play with 32 seconds left that pulled Creighton to within 2 points. And following a CU steal, Gibbs had the ball in his hands with a chance to tie the game. He was defended well but missed a layup he’d no doubt tell you he should have made.

Yes, it was one of those nights. The kind of night that casts doubts about what a team is made of, regardless of the much larger sample size of games previously played (you know, the 17-2 record through 19 games). The kind of night that can cost a team a regular season title. The kind of night that causes knots in the collective stomach of the team’s fan base.

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