Bradley-Creighton Preview

The Associated Press

Creighton needed a little help, but it's back atop the Missouri Valley Conference.

Given their success with Bradley in town, the 21st-ranked Bluejays should have a good chance of at least keeping a share of that lead Saturday when they go for a 15th consecutive home win over the Braves.

Creighton (19-3, 8-2) had a chance to build a two-game league lead over Wichita State - and win its 12th in a row - on Jan. 19, but it suffered a 67-64 road loss to the Shockers. The Bluejays fell off the Shockers' pace four days later when they lost 74-69 at Drake and Wichita State won 62-52 at Missouri State.

Creighton, though, has bounced back strongly, shooting a combined 59.0 percent - 56.3 from 3-point range - in Sunday's 81-51 rout at Southern Illinois and a 91-77 victory over Missouri State on Wednesday.

Wichita State, ranked 15th, plays at Northern Iowa on Saturday after dropping to 8-2 in the league with Tuesday's 68-55 home loss to Indiana State.

"It feels great to be back (in first), but we can't get complacent like we did earlier this year," said Creighton junior forward Doug McDermott, the nation's second-leading scorer with 23.9 points per game.

The Braves (13-9, 5-5) definitely can't get complacent after avoiding a third straight defeat Tuesday with an 83-77 victory over Illinois State.

Bradley is winless in nine games at CenturyLink Center, and it hasn't posted a road victory over the Bluejays since Jan. 17, 1998.

Ending that skid could be asking a lot as Creighton leads the nation in field goal percentage (52.1) and 3-point shooting (42.3) and is among the best with 18.2 assists per game.

McDermott has torched the Braves with 26.0 points per game - including a career-best 44 at Bradley on Jan. 7, 2012 - in four matchups, but the Bluejays are far from a one-man show. Junior forward Ethan Wragge leads the conference with 57 3s, and the backcourt duo of Grant Gibbs (5.8) and Austin Chatman (4.9) are 1-2 in the MVC in assists per game.

The Braves' strength is clearly their backcourt. Junior Walt Lemon Jr. is scoring 20.8 points per game - 6.0 more than his season average - over the last four contests after finishing with a career-best 27 and five steals Tuesday. Lemon is second in the MVC with 2.4 steals per game.

Fellow guard Dyricus Simms-Edwards is among the nation's leaders with 3.0 steals per contest. The senior is averaging 18.5 points in the last four games between these teams, nearly double his career mark.

Bradley is averaging 50.3 points and shooting 35.6 percent during a four-game losing streak on the road, and those numbers are not much better in its recent matchups with ranked teams.

The Bears have dropped six in a row to Top 25 opponents while averaging 53.5 points and making 38.8 percent of their field goal attempts.

With a third consecutive victory in this series, Creighton will reach the 20-win plateau for the 14th time in 15 seasons.

What to Read Next