When snake-bitten Indiana guard Maurice Creek announced he intended to transfer to George Washington this past spring, it was easy to understand the motivation behind the decision.
Moments like the one Creek experienced Sunday afternoon will surely validate Creek's decision to transfer. Creek faked like he was going to attack the rim and created just enough separation to sink a step-back 18 footer with less than a second remaining, lifting surging George Washington to a wild 77-75 victory over Maryland in the BB&T Classic.
"I just wanted the ball," Creek said in a TV interview after the game. "I told coach get me the ball. He gave me the ball. I told everyone to clear out, do some movement so they wouldn't double and I hit that shot."
And just how memorable was the shot? "The biggest shot of my career," Creek said without hesitation.
Creek's last-second game winner was a fitting culmination to a day in which he scored 25 points on only 11 shots and showed flashes of his old self. He is averaging a team-high 16.3 points per game so far this season, a huge reason George Washington is a surprising 8-1 with victories over Creighton, Rutgers, Miami and now Maryland bolstering its resumé.
Of course, the win over the Terps may not look so meaningful in March if Mark Turgeon's team can't rebound from a disappointing start. Turnovers, a lack of cohesive offense and poor shot selection continued to plague Maryland (5-4) as the Terps needed an unlikely comeback from a 14-point second-half deficit just to force a tie prior to Creek's heroics.
The sight of an elated Creek bounding off the floor high-fiving fans should warm the hearts of all but the most staunch Maryland fans considering the adversity he has endured the past few years.
In December 2009, Creek fractured his left kneecap, costing him the rest of his freshman season. Then in January 2011, Creek suffered a stress fracture in the patella of his other knee, ending his season early once again. And worst of all, Creek tore his left Achilles walking upstairs to his apartment in October 2011 days before the start of practice last season.
The injuries diminished the athleticism Creek demonstrated early in his freshman year when he established himself as Indiana's best player and appeared capable of playing in the NBA within a couple years. Prior to the first knee injury, he averaged 16.4 points per game, shot 44.8 percent from 3-point range and memorably erupted for 31 points against Kentucky.
Creek played sparingly in 24 of Indiana's 36 games a year ago, going scoreless in all but eight of his appearances and never tallying double digits the entire season. It was unlikely his role was going to increase dramatically as a senior, so he made an emotional but rational decision to take advantage of the rule allowing players who have graduated to transfer without sitting out a year.
With Creek enjoying a renaissance, Villanova transfer Isaiah Armwood providing low-post scoring and rebounding and sophomore guard Kethan Savage delivering a breakthrough season, George Washington has enough weapons to finish in the Atlantic 10's upper tier.
But even if this dream start to the season fades later this winter, Creek will always have the memory of the day when he got to be a star on a big stage again.
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