The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Creighton holds early advantage in the Valley after beating Illinois State again

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(AP)

Creighton took a two-game lead over the team it beat in the Missouri Valley Conference championship game a year ago by winning on the road 79-72 at Illinois State.

There is a long way to go before anything is decided in the Valley but the Bluejays certainly have to be feeling better about the position they're in than the Redbirds early in conference play.

The Bluejays won their first game this season decided by fewer than 10 points and they did it without needing a Herculean effort from Doug McDermott, the nation's third leading scorer. McDermott scored 33 against Illinois State in the conference title game in March but was limited to 15 points this time as the Redbirds consistently double-teamed him.

These teams were widely considered the favorites for the league title again this year. Creighton looks the part at 13-1 overall and 2-0 in conference. Illinois State seems less of a certainty at 9-5 and in an 0-2 hole to start conference play.

The Redbirds lost their MVC opener to Indiana State, which improved to 2-0 in the conference by winning at Northern Iowa on Wednesday. The Sycamores play Creighton on Saturday and are a team to watch with guard Jake Odum, now a junior, playing more like he did as a freshman than as a sophomore.

But Creighton is in the driver's seat especially if others continue to step up while opponents focus their efforts on slowing down McDermott. Junior forward Ethan Wragge filled the role against Illinois State, scoring a career best 18 points making six of nine 3-point attempts.

Kyle covers Colorado and the Pac-12 for the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder. Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleRingo

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