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Ott’s Thoughts: Wichita State 67, #12 Creighton 64

Ott's Thoughts Presented by State Farm -- Talk to Bluejay Alum Grant MussmanCreighton traveled to Wichita State and held the Shockers to 38% shooting from the field, nearly 8 percentage points lower than WSU’s season average. The Shockers made a putrid 17% of their 23 three-point attempts, about 15 percentage points lower than their season average. And WSU made only 47% of their free throws, 20 percentage points lower than their season average.

And the Bluejays lost.

Wichita State didn’t make a field goal during the final 5 minutes of the game. The Shockers missed 5 free throws during the final 2 minutes. All while Creighton was within a single shot of tying or taking the lead.

And yet the Bluejays lost.

Doug McDermott showed up against the Shockers, at least offensively. He scored a game-high 25 points, including hitting 4 of his 5 three-point attempts. Twice he pulled CU to within 1 point during the final 5:20, but with 90 seconds left he missed a shot from the arc that would have given the Jays a 2-point lead. Austin Chatman corralled an offensive rebound and got it to McDermott, but Malcolm Armstead stole the ball from him before he could get a shot off in the paint.

McDermott was solid, but the Bluejays lost.

Creighton’s 11-game winning streak came to an end at Koch Arena because of some very specific and haunting numbers.

22 and 44 — That’s the number of offensive rebounds the Shockers collected, an absolutely back-breaking figure. Wichita State missed 44 shots, but they collected rebounds on half of those. Half. Carl Hall had 6 offensive boards himself, which was just one rebound fewer than Creighton’s Gregory Echenique had on the defensive glass. Saturday marked the best offensive rebounding effort by a CU opponent since a nationally ranked New Mexico team snared 22 offensive boards in December 2009. The Jays lost that game, too, 66-61.

23 and 5 — The Shockers turned those 22 offensive rebounds into 23 points, outscoring Creighton by 18 in second-chance points. The Bluejays scored just 5 second-chance points.

71 — The Shockers attempted 71 field goals. In regulation. How rare is that? The last time a Creighton opponent attempted 70 or more shots in regulation? The hated Southern Illinois Salukis, in a CU win at the Civic Auditorium almost 10 years ago to the day (January 18, 2003). ESPN was there for that game, too, but the Bluejays pulled out a victory. For comparison, Bradley attempted 78 shots against the Bluejays in a March 2008 game … that went two overtimes.

Unfortunately for Creighton, the game played in about the best possible for a WSU victory. The Shocker defense kept the Jays from getting in a rhythm. Creighton shot 10 percentage points worse against Wichita State than their season average. The Jays shot 5 percentage points worse from behind the arc. And CU’s performance at the charity stripe was less than inspiring; the Jays shot free throws nearly 16 percentage points worse than their regular clip.

And when the Bluejays would force stops, Wichita State was able to create second-chance opportunities. Greg McDermott’s two teams at Creighton entering this season were -24 on the glass to Wichita State in four games. It is simplistic to say that the rebounding margin is the reason McDermott’s Jays squads are 1-4 against the Shockers in two-plus seasons, but it was definitely the case Saturday.

Still, despite all of the rebounding woes and the inability to limit Wichita’s points in the paint (the Shockers outscored CU 44-20 in the blocks), Creighton had multiple chances in the waning minutes to tie or take the lead. But there are no moral victories, especially in a game that brings WSU and CU even in the Missouri Valley Conference standings at 6-1.

The Bluejays must quickly move on from a disappointing loss, lest they revisit last year’s three-game losing streak in conference play. The situations are comparable: Creighton rode an 11-game win streak into Cedar Falls and lost in the closing seconds against Northern Iowa, 65-62. A few days later CU traveled to Evansville and scored a season-low 57 points in an 8-point loss to the Purple Aces.

Creighton crushed Drake by 30 points a few weeks ago. But the Bulldogs host the Bluejays in Des Moines this week, and you can bet that Mark Phelps’ team has revenge in mind. Weird things happen to CU in the Knapp Center. Here’s hoping Creighton’s first losing streak of the season isn’t one of them.

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