The 13th-ranked Creighton Bluejays will attempt to stay unbeaten in Missouri Valley Conference play on Friday night when they pay a visit to the Missouri State Bears at JQH Arena.
Creighton's spectacular season has just one blemish on it, an 83-70 loss to Boise State back on Nov. 28. Since that defeat, the team has been flawless in winning nine games in a row and rising to No. 13 in the latest AP poll.
The Bluejays hosted Drake on Tuesday night and put together one of their best all-around efforts of the season en route to a 91-61 victory. Not only did they shoot a lofty 64.2 percent from the field, but they also held the Bulldogs to 35.6 percent field goal efficiency. They also made good on 16- of-27 attempts from 3-point range, led by a 6-of-9 effort by Ethan Wragge off the bench as he tallied a game-high 22 points. Doug McDermott finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, Jahenns Manigat had 13 points and five assists, and Grant Gibbs netted 10 points.
Overall, the first two months of the season have been a disappointment for Missouri State (5-11), but things have taken a turn for the positive in recent weeks. Since entering MVC play on Dec. 30, the Bears have won three of four.
Missouri State moved to 4-4 at home on Tuesday with a 62-55 win over Illinois State. The team used a 10-0 run toward the end of the first half to head into intermission with a seven-point lead, and it did not surrender that advantage after the break. Anthony Downing was outstanding in the win, tallying 28 points and eight assists, while Marcus Marshall added 14 points.
Missouri State had won six straight matchups with Creighton until the Bluejays claimed a 66-65 decision on Jan. 18, 2012. As a result, Creighton leads the all-time series, 31-28.
Creighton's incredible success on offense (MVC-best .519 FG percentage and 80.2 ppg) is thanks mostly to its prowess beyond the arc, as it leads the nation in both 3-point buckets (159) and 3-point field goal percentage (.449). McDermott, a Preseason All-America candidate, has lived up to his billing, ranking fourth in the country in scoring at 22.6 ppg while shooting exceptionally well from the floor overall (.551), 3-point range (.493), and the free throw stripe (.874). Gregory Echenique has been alongside McDermott in the frontcourt all season, and he checks in with 10.8 ppg (.676 FG percentage) while leading the team with 7.6 rpg and 1.7 bpg. Austin Chatman (8.1 ppg) and Gibbs (7.1 ppg) combine to hand out nearly 11 assists per contest.
At the other end of the spectrum lies a team like Missouri State, which has struggled mightily at the offensive end of the court in ranking last in the league with just 59.8 ppg, with its only saving grace being a respectable scoring defense which yields an average of 62.4 ppg. Downing is clearly the catalyst, as he not only scores a team-high 14.6 ppg, but also tallies 4.1 rpg, 2.6 apg and 1.3 spg. Marshall (10.1 ppg) is the only other player who puts up double-digit points on a nightly basis, although he does so on just 39.5 percent shooting from the field.