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Missouri St.-Creighton Preview

AP - Sports

Creighton is off to its best start in eight seasons and will begin Missouri Valley Conference play as a ranked team for the first time.

The club should have plenty of motivation to keep its surge going as it faces the defending regular-season conference champs, who won all three matchups last season.

The 21st-ranked Bluejays go for a record 17th consecutive victory at the CenturyLink Center Omaha on Wednesday night when they try to snap a five-game losing streak to Missouri State.

Led by 27 points, five rebounds and a career-high five assists from Doug McDermott - who sat the final 12 minutes of the first half with two fouls - Creighton (10-1) defeated its third Big Ten team this season Thursday with an 87-79 victory over Northwestern.

The Bluejays are off to their best start since opening 12-0 in 2003-04, and much of that success can be attributed to McDermott. The sophomore forward is among the nation's leaders in scoring (25.4 ppg) and 3-point percentage at 57.8 (26 for 45).

With McDermott accounting for 29.4 percent of the team's points, Creighton has reached 70 in its first 11 games for the first time since doing so in 17 straight to begin 1970-71.

The Bluejays are hoping their hot shooting continues in league play - they are near the top in the county in field goal percentage (51.7) and 3-point percentage (44.7) - after hitting 12 of 21 3s and finishing 30 of 57 on Thursday.

"It was big to finish off our non-conference here and head into break,'' said junior guard Grant Gibbs, who has 22 assists in the last two games. "Any time we can get a quality win against an opponent like Northwestern at our place, we have to take advantage of it, and we were fortunate.''

The Bluejays weren't so fortunate in last season's matchups with Missouri State (7-5), dropping all three after leading by at least eight in the second half of each one.

The last time these teams met, Creighton was denied a trip to the MVC finals with a 60-50 loss in St. Louis on March 5.

The Bears advanced to their first conference title game since 2005 with that victory to follow up their first regular-season league title since 1990. However, this appears to be a rebuilding year for first-year coach Paul Lusk's team with five of its top six scorers from 2010-11 gone.

Still, reigning MVC player of the year Kyle Weems and center Caleb Patterson could present plenty of problems for McDermott and Bluejays big man Gregory Echenique.

Weems averaged 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds versus Creighton last season, scoring the game-winning layup with 13.3 seconds left in a 67-66 home win on Jan. 22.

He scored 26 with 13 boards in losses to West Virginia and Saint Mary's at the Las Vegas Classic last week.

Patterson led the Bears with 18 points in each game.

Missouri State shot 17 of 25 and outscored the Bluejays 47-26 in the second half to win 67-55 in its last visit to Creighton on Jan. 4. The Bluejays had won the previous five matchups in Omaha.

McDermott averaged 13.7 points on 53.3 percent shooting (16 for 30) against the Bears in 2010-11.

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