Despite some tense moments, Creighton has handled one of the busier stretches of its season without a loss - so far.
The 23rd-ranked Bluejays will try to earn their fourth victory in nine days and Doug McDermott will attempt to become one of the fastest to score 1,000 points in program history Sunday night against visiting Southern Illinois.
After pulling out a 63-60 win over Northern Iowa on Tuesday, Creighton showed perhaps a little fatigue as it nearly blew an 18-point lead during an 87-78 victory at Illinois State three days later.
The Bluejays (15-2, 5-1 Missouri Valley) let the Redbirds get within two points with 1:01 remaining but benefited from three technical fouls in the final 33 seconds during their fifth straight victory.
“It’s tough to get road wins in this league. We were really glad to get out with a road win. It’s going to do some tremendous things in the end,” guard Antoine Young said. “It’s real important (to end the stretch well). It’s definitely a long stretch of games.”
Young was one of five Creighton players in double figures Friday with 13 points and McDermott had a team-best 20 to move within seven points of 1,000. The sophomore forward, set to play in his 57th game, is trying to become the school’s fastest to reach that milestone since former NBA player Bob Portman and current Charlotte Bobcats coach Paul Silas did it in the 1960s.
More recently, it took Rodney Buford 59 games to accomplish that feat in 1997.
McDermott likely is equally focused on beating Southern Illinois (6-11, 3-3). The Salukis have won three of five since a four-game skid, beating Indiana State 73-67 on Friday.
“We’ve done a good job of taking it a day at a time. We’ve been working hard and focusing on the scouting reports,” McDermott said. “I think (Southern Illinois) is going to come in hungry so we have to bring our all.”
The Salukis have dropped seven in a row in the series and four straight in Omaha. They suffered a 69-50 loss there Feb. 13 as McDermott scored 15 points and Creighton’s Gregory Echenique, who has three straight double-digit rebounding performances, had 12 points and 14 boards.
The Bluejays, though, haven’t had as easy of a time in some of the other recent meetings, with three of the last six going into overtime. Among those was a 72-66 road victory last January.
Echenique had 16 points and nine rebounds in that game, while the Salukis’ current top scorer and rebounder, Mamadou Seck, registered 18 points and 14 boards.
Seck, a senior from Senegal, is averaging 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds, the latter good for second in the Missouri Valley behind McDermott’s 8.4.
“We have to find another energy to play against Southern on Sunday. They had a nice win against Indiana State. They’re 3-3 in the league and playing much better basketball,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “They’re coming in with confidence.”
Creighton has won 26 of its 40 home games against the Salukis and leads the series 49-36.
Southern Illinois has lost six in a row to ranked teams since a 65-62 win over then-No. 14 Drake on Feb. 13, 2008. The Salukis were ranked 16th themselves for their last road win over a Top 25 team, topping then-No. 13 Butler 68-64 on Feb. 17, 2007.