Omaha, NE – The top two teams in the Missouri Valley ranked Creighton Bluejays.
Both teams are 21-4 on the year, with Wichita State sporting a 12-2 conference mark, good for first place, while Creighton comes in at 11-3 against league foes, obviously just a game off the pace.
The Shockers have won their last three games, 11 of their last 12 and 19 of their last 21 overall. Wichita State is a stellar 7-1 in true road games this season, with its only loss so far in 2012 coming in a tripe-overtime clash at Drake on January 28.
The Bluejays had been flying high since a conference-opening loss to Missouri State, as they won 11 in a row before heading to Northern Iowa last Saturday. Creighton wound up on the losing end of a 65-62 final in that contest, and must have still been reeling a bit as the team then paid a visit to Evansville on Wednesday, where the Purple Aces pulled off the 65-57 upset.
The Bluejays claimed a 68-61 win at Wichita State back on New Year's Eve to take a 53-43 lead in the all-time series, and history is clearly on Creighton's side in this contest as it is 17-1 at home versus the Shockers since 1993.
Wichita State blasted Northern Iowa on Tuesday night, shooting 55.9 percent from the floor, making good on 12-of-19 three-point attempts and limiting the Panthers to 39.2 percent field goal efficiency. Joe Ragland led the Shockers with 19 points, and he nailed five treys, and David Kyles came off the bench to hit four triples to finish with 16 points. Toure' Murry added a dozen points and handed out five assists, while Garrett Stutz logged a double-double consisting of 10 points and 12 rebounds. It was something of an off-night for Stutz, as he was an offensive machine in the previous four games, scoring a total of 99 points during that span. The Shockers' starting center (14.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 26 blocks) continues to pace the club in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, while shooting 57.5 percent from the field and 82.5 percent at the charity stripe. Helping Stutz keep Wichita State moving in the right direction is the backcourt duo of Ragland (12.8 ppg, 3.4 apg) and Murry (12.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.1 apg), but really it's been a complete team effort as the Shockers have a total of six guys averaging at least 8.8 ppg -- the team as a whole putting up 77.9 ppg in hitting 48.0 percent of its total shots, while giving up just 62.9 ppg on typical shooting outputs of .398 overall and .303 from beyond the arc. A +6.2 rebounding margin has also helped matters.
Producing at an even higher rate than Wichita State's Stutz is Creighton standout Doug McDermott, he of 23.3 points and 8.4 caroms per contest, as the sophomore forward is a lock to be the MVC Player of the Year, and garner some consideration for the Wooden Award as well. Unfortunately for the Bluejays, they have only one other double-digit scorer, but Antoine Young's 11.4 ppg isn't going to scare anyone, so foes have tried their best to focus on McDermott and let the rest of the roster try and beat them. That plan has backfired for the majority of opponents this season, but both Northern Iowa and Evansville proved that even when Creighton's star gets his, the Bluejays can be beaten. Case in point being the recent clash at Evansville, a game in which McDermott went 7-of-16 from the floor to tally 21 points, but the rest of the team scored a total of 36 points. Austin Chatman netted 11 off the bench, while Gregory Echenique chipped in 10 for the Bluejays, who connected on only 40.4 percent of their field goal attempts, missing 18 of their 22 three-point tries along the way. With both McDermott and Echenique securing eight rebounds apiece, Creighton won the battle on the boards (37-30). An 18-11 deficit at the foul line proved costly.