Published January 31, 2013
OMAHA, Neb. – Missouri State coach Paul Lusk says his team has a chance to be competitive against all but one team in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Bears played that one team Wednesday night — 21st-ranked Creighton — and Lusk was right.
Gavin Thurman scored 21 points to lead four players in double figures, but the Bears struggled to keep All-American Doug McDermott under control in a 91-77 loss to the Bluejays.
Dorrian Williams had all 14 of his points in the second half, and Marcus Marshall and Christian Kirk added 10 apiece for the Bears (6-16, 4-6), who dropped to 1-10 on the road.
Lusk is glad Creighton doesn't appear on the Bears' schedule again this season.
"I just told them we're not playing Creighton again this year unless we meet them in the conference tournament," Lusk said. "Obviously, we haven't played everybody in the league, but we can play with people in the league and match up and do some things. We simply have no answer for Creighton."
The Bluejays' 14-point win came after they beat Missouri State by 22 on the road three weeks ago.
McDermott, who had a season-best 39 points in the first meeting, scored 29 and made five of Creighton's 15 3-pointers on Wednesday.
Ethan Wragge added 15 points, Austin Chatman had 14 points and 10 assists for his first double-double, and Grant Gibbs scored 10 for the Bluejays. Creighton (19-3, 8-2) moved into a tie for first place with Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Thurman was 9 of 14 from the field for the Bears while matching his season high for points.
"Gavin is going to be very good," Lusk said. "He's naturally a gifted scorer. It's just about the game slowing down, getting him minutes, getting him acclimated to college basketball. He's got to become more physical and that's going to happen. The biggest strides will be in the offseason for him after going through a year of college basketball."
McDermott, who also had 10 rebounds and four assists, got better as the game progressed. He scored 18 points and shot 3 of 4 on 3s in the second half. The performance was still a far cry from his splendid outing in Springfield, Mo., on Jan. 11, when he personally outscored Missouri State 28-25 in the second half and made 14 shots in a row on his way to a season-best 39 points.
Creighton, the nation's top 3-point shooting team, made 15 from long range on a season-high 28 attempts.
The Bluejays turned in their second straight sharp performance after back-to-back road losses to Wichita State and Drake.
They shot 63 percent in a 30-point win at Southern Illinois on Sunday, and 56 percent against Missouri State in one of their strongest overall games.
The Bluejays posted their first regular-season sweep of Missouri State since 2008-09 and won their 72nd straight home game against an opponent that was .500 or worse.
Creighton made nine 3-pointers on its way to a 45-32 lead at the break. Wragge hit two of them and Austin Chatman and McDermott one apiece during a 14-4 spurt that put Creighton up by double digits.
Missouri State twice missed on chances to make it a two-possession game. Bruce Marshall made two free throws after Gregory Echenique was called for a flagrant-1 foul for elbowing him under the basket. The Bears kept possession, but Marcus Marshall committed an offensive foul and the Bears got no closer than eight points.
McDermott put back his own miss and Avery Dingman drilled a 3-pointer just ahead of the halftime buzzer to make it a 13-point game.
In the first half alone, the Bluejays had assists on 13 of their 16 field goals, converted six offensive rebounds into eight points and committed only two turnovers.
The Bears, playing a ranked opponent for the fifth time this season, came in having won their past two games in Omaha. Southern Illinois (2004-07) is the only team to have won three straight against the Bluejays at the 10-year-old CenturyLink Center.