Cedar Rapids, IA – The 13th-ranked Creighton Bluejays take aim at their 12th straight victory, as they fly into Cedar Rapids for today's Missouri Valley Conference showdown with the Panthers of Northern Iowa.
Creighton picked up its 11th consecutive win on Wednesday night by blasting visiting Illinois State in a 102-74 final. It was the second time this season the Bluejays soared above the 100-point mark, and it improved their overall record to 21-2, and their league ledger to 11-1. It was also the 12th win in 13 home games for a Creighton club that is clearly the class of the MVC this season.
Northern Iowa is coming off a win of its own, as the Panthers took care of visiting Southern Illinois on Tuesday, 58-49. As a result, UNI improved to 15-9 on the season and 5-7 in conference play. The Panthers own a 10-3 home record, but they've strung together consecutive wins just once since opening the season an impressive 10-1.
Creighton owns a 29-15 lead in the all-time series with Northern Iowa, and the Bluejays have won the last three meetings, which includes a 63-60 decision in Omaha back on January 10.
Doug McDermott poured in 25 points to lead six players in double figures, as the Bluejays could do no wrong in their recent win over Illinois State. The other five guys scored between 10 and 12 points apiece, and the team as a whole made good on 13-of-25 three-point attempts (.520) while shooting 56.4 percent from the floor overall. A 27-13 edge in points from the foul line helped the cause, as did a 35-23 rebounding advantage. Creighton is one of the highest scoring teams in the country, averaging 81.8 ppg behind outstanding shooting percentages of .516 overall and .453 from three-point range. McDermott (23.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg) is one of the top performers in not only the MVC, but the country as well, and the team's only other double-digit scorer is Antoine Young (11.0 ppg, 4.5 apg). Defensively, the 'Jays are giving up 68.0 ppg with foes shooting 42.6 percent from the field. Creighton is +5.8 in rebounding margin, but -1.3 in turnover differential.
Freshman Deon Mitchell scored a career-high 17 points, and Chip Rank came off the bench to net 13 more, as Northern Iowa got past Southern Illinois earlier this week. The Panthers overcame a slow start (.286 FG percentage in the first half) by shooting 55.0 percent from the floor over the final 20 minutes to earn the victory. The Salukis were limited to 35.3 percent field goal efficiency, and a 20-8 deficit in points from the free-throw line also proved costly. UNI claimed significant advantages in points in the paint (22-12), off turnovers (16-2) and from its reserves (18-5). Through 24 games, Anthony James (13.4 ppg) is the only player averaging double figures in scoring for coach Ben Jacobson's club, but he is hitting just 38.4 percent of his field goal attempts. Overall, the team is averaging 66.0 ppg in dropping 43.3 percent of its total shots and 38.2 percent of its long-range bombs, while the opposition is netting 60.8 ppg on typical shooting outputs of 43.1 percent overall and 35.0 percent from beyond the arc.