Illinois St.-Creighton Preview


It remains to be seen if emotions will stay elevated between Illinois State and Creighton following a testy finish to their meeting a few weeks ago.

Either way, the 13th-ranked Bluejays and star Doug McDermott show no signs of lowering their level of play.

Creighton will be chasing an 11th straight victory Wednesday night in Omaha, where the atmosphere figures to be a bit more friendly to the Missouri Valley Conference's top team than it was in Normal.

Redbirds fans threw debris on the court Jan. 13 after a series of technical fouls ended their team's chance to knock off the Bluejays (20-2, 10-1).

Johnny Hill missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the score with 33 seconds left, then committed a hard foul on the ensuing possession that led to three technicals and a deceptive 87-78 final margin.

Although McDermott had a below-average game in terms of scoring with 20 points, he was typically efficient in hitting 9 of 14 from the field. The nation's third-leading scorer (23.5 ppg) has gone 10 of 14 in each of his last two games, boosting his field-goal percentage to 61.7.

Only three players in the last 10 seasons have finished with a better rate while averaging more than 20 points. All stood taller than McDermott's 6-foot-7 frame, and two - Blake Griffin and Andrew Bogut - went on to become No. 1 overall NBA draft picks.

The other, Chris Kaman, was chosen sixth after his Central Michigan team ousted then-No. 15 Creighton in the first round of the 2003 NCAA tournament.

"They have got a team that has a chance to make a run because every night that they step on the floor, they basically have the best player," Bradley coach Geno Ford said after the Bluejays' 73-59 win Saturday.

"I'm not talking in Valley games. I don't care who they get in the (NCAA) tournament, they're going to have the best player almost every night. And their other guys are capable shooters."

The Bluejays lead the nation in shooting at 51.4 percent, and Illinois State (14-8, 6-5) found out about their supporting cast the hard way in the first meeting.

Four Creighton players other than McDermott scored at least 12 points, with Jahenns Manigat and Ethan Wragge combining to go 8 for 11 from 3-point range.

"I was amazed we were only down a possession with less than a minute to go," Redbirds coach Tim Jankovich said that night.

He could largely thank Bryant Allen for that. The junior guard scored 29 points in that game - 15 more than he's tallied in any of his 10 other contests.

"We had no answer for Allen," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "None. He beat us off the dribble. He beat us off the screen. He's just a very good player and he showed it."

The Bluejays also should devote plenty of attention to Jackie Carmichael, who has averaged 22.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in leading the Redbirds to consecutive victories over Missouri State and Southern Illinois.

Illinois State rolled over the visiting Salukis 60-40 on Saturday, but it's just 2-5 on the road this season and 3-10 at Creighton since 1999.

The Redbirds have dropped 22 in a row against ranked opponents dating back to 1987.