Two of the top teams in the Missouri Valley Conference collide on Wednesday, as the 16th-ranked Creighton Bluejays take on the Illinois State Redbirds on the road in Normal.
Greg McDermott leads one of the top mid-majors in the nation in Creighton. The Bluejays closed the 2012 calendar year with a six-game win streak and have won 12 of their first 13 games thus far. The lone loss to Boise State in Omaha (83-70) came back on Nov. 28, as the team has run the table since, including opening up MVC play in rather easy fashion with an 87-70 rout of Evansville last weekend.
The start of league play was not as kind to Illinois State, as the Redbirds had a four-game win streak halted by a 77-75 loss at Indiana State on Sunday. The loss dropped Illinois State to 9-4 on the season. Although the Redbirds are 6-1 at home this season, the team is 0-7 against ranked foes at Redbird Arena all-time.
Illinois State holds a 40-29 advantage in the all-time series with Creighton, but the Bluejays have dominated of late, winning each of the last five meetings, including three victories a year ago.
The Bluejays got off to a fast start with a 19-3 run early on and never looked back in routing the Purple Aces in the MVC opener over the weekend. Creighton dominated in just about ever facet of the game, shooting .492 from the floor, including a 12-of-24 showing from behind the arc. In addition, the team owned the boards to the tune of a 43-27 rebounding advantage. All-American Doug McDermott was once again the leading force behind the win, pouring in a game- high 29 points, while completing a double-double with 10 rebounds. Gregory Echenique also posted a double-double with 13 points and 13 boards. Jahenns Manigat added 13 points as well, while Avery Dingman chipped in with 11 points off the bench.
A truly dynamic playmaker that is headed towards All-American honors again, McDermott is shooting .553 from the floor, including .500 from 3-point range (29-of-58) and pouring in 23.5 ppg (third nationally). Echenique is a solid performer in the middle, converting .675 from the floor, en route to 11.0 ppg. He is also the team's top rebounder (7.9 rpg) and shot-blocker (22). A highly efficient team overall, Creighton is shooting .508 from the floor (ninth nationally), including .425 from 3-point range (second nationally).
Illinois State is one of the few teams in the MVC that can match Creighton's offensive output. The Redbirds are shooting .497 from the field overall and averaging 80.5 ppg (17th nationally). The team has its own dynamic player in forward Jackie Carmichael. The 6-foot-9 senior has recorded three straight double-doubles and leads the team in both scoring (17.8 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg). Senior guard Tyler Brown provides the team with perimeter balance, pouring in 16.8 ppg and leads the way with 30 3-pointers. Junior forward Jon Eckey (9.5 ppg) and junior guard Bryant Allen (9.4 ppg) give the team scoring depth.
Eckey posted 16 points and Carmichael recorded another double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds, but it wasn't enough, as Illinois State dropped its league-opener to Indiana State. Brown added 11 points in the setback, as ISU fell behind early and could not recover despite shooting .519 from the floor in the second half.