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Illinois State pulls off upset at Creighton

The SportsXchange

OMAHA, Neb. -- It was a historic night for Illinois State, but it sure wasn't easy.

For the first time since 1985, the Redbirds beat a ranked opponent on the road with a 75-72 win over No. 16 Creighton.

The victory also ended Illinois State's six-game losing streak to Creighton. The Redbirds have now won six of their last seven Missouri Valley Conference games after opening on a six-game skid.

"Very proud of our guys," Illinois State coach Dan Muller said. "We just guarded. We executed the game plan. We've been well offensively lately and it continued. In a game like this to win, you have to have multiple guys step up and make big plays. We certainly did."

Leading 64-60 with just over three minutes left, Illinois State turned the ball over at midcourt after a timeout. Creighton was unable to convert on numerous chances to tie and the Redbirds' Johnny Hill eventually extended their lead to five by making two free throws with 11 seconds left.

Creighton's Grant Gibbs was able to hit two quick free throws to make it a one-possession game with under seven seconds left. Creighton's full-court press caused Illinois State to take a timeout. Illinois State was able to break the press, but a John Wilkins double-dribble gave the Bluejays one last chance with one second left. A miracle shot failed.

After scoring just four points in the first half, Illinois State's Tyler Brown had 23 in the second half and finished with 27. Doug McDermott led Creighton with 24 points and 13 rebounds.

"Tyler had a Tyler half," Muller said. "He is really hard to guard right now because he's driving it and he can make shots. He made some really tough shots.

"He was a little down in the first half and missed some shots he thought he should make. But he kept playing. His attitude has been so good and if you do that, things like this can happen."

After Brown hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Illinois State a 48-44 lead early in the second half, Creighton got a spark from an unlikely source. Freshman Nevin Johnson, who has averaged five minutes per game this season, made three straight baskets in 45 seconds to give the Bluejays their lead back.

Illinois State responded and its zone defense carried the lead for the next seven minutes. However, the Redbirds could never extend their margin to more than four, allowing Creighton to linger.

"(The defense) threw our rhythm off," Gibbs said. "But we practice that and we just didn't execute our zone offense. You have to give them credit, but we just didn't attack it."

Creighton might not have shot well in the first half but managed to find the way to a 39-36 lead.

The Bluejays, who had been shooting 51.7 percent from the field, finished the first half at 33.3 percent.

Despite struggling to find its stroke, Creighton dominated Illinois State on the glass and took advantage of free throws, outrebounding the Redbirds 27-14 in the first half and converting on 13 of 14 free throw.

"The rebounding stats, we dominated," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "We didn't turn the ball over a lot and I thought our guys competed. We just made a few too many mistakes on a night we didn't shoot the ball well at all."

NOTES: Creighton is still one win from having at least 10 Missouri Valley victories for the 17th consecutive season. ... Creighton was 16-0 when it leads at the half coming into the game, but is now 16-1. ... Illinois State's Jackie Carmichael passed Muller in the Illinois State record books in the first half. Carmichael eclipsed Muller's 1,445 career points and became the 10th leading scorer in school history. ... The crowd of 18,494 was the second largest ever at CenturyLink Center Omaha.
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