No. 16 Creighton Holds Off Illinois State, 79-72
Bryant Allen was one of two Redbirds to lead the team in scoring with 15 points
Bryant Allen was one of two Redbirds to lead the team in scoring with 15 points

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Jan. 2, 2013

NORMAL, Ill. - Illinois State (9-5, 0-2 MVC) led twice in the second half and battled back to even the score two other times, but No. 16 Creighton (13-1, 2-0 MVC) held on for a 79-72 conference victory in front of a season-high 8,813 fans Wednesday evening watching at Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena.

A Bryant Allen three-pointer with 9:21 left in the second half gave the Redbirds their first lead since the 18:20 mark of the first half at 63-61. After a three-point play from Creighton's Gregory Echenique, Jon Ekey scored his only two points of the game on a driving floater in the lane to give ISU a 65-64 lead with 7:17 remaining. However, the Bluejays responded with five-straight points to regain the lead for good.

Allen and Tyler Brown led the way offensively for the Redbirds with 15 points apiece, while Zeke Upshaw chipped in a career-high 11 points. The ISU defense limited national player of the year candidate Doug McDermott to just 15 points, as Grant Gibbs led the Bluejays with 16. The seven-point margin of victory was the smallest this season for the preseason favorites to win the Missouri Valley Conference.

The two teams went back and forth at the beginning, with a McDermott three-pointer sandwiched in-between two from Brown. Gibbs then scored seven-straight for the Bluejays, including a trey at the 16:41 mark that put Creighton up 10-6. With the score 11-8, Ethan Wragge scored the next nine points of the game, all from beyond the arc, extending the lead to 20-8 with 13:11 left in the half to give the Jays their largest lead of the game.

Upshaw broke the 17-2 Creighton run with a three-pointer, before Allen hit another from deep to pull ISU within six at 20-14. After two more triples from Creighton sandwiched around one from Kaza Keane for ISU, Allen hit two jumpers to cause a Bluejay timeout, with the score at 26-21 with 8:48 left in the half.

After even play over the next four-plus minutes, the Redbirds came out of the under-four minute media timeout down 35-30, before the Bluejays equaled their largest lead of the game by going on a 7-0 run. The spurt was capped by a Wragge three, his fifth of the half, which put Creighton up 42-30 at the 2:16 mark. The Redbirds responded, however, by scoring the final nine points of the half. After four ISU free throws, Jackie Carmichael scored his first points since the 15:18 mark on a put back that made the score 42-36. Carmichael missed the ensuing free throw, but Nick Zeisloft tracked down the loose ball before eventually getting it back and hitting a three to make the score 42-39 heading into halftime.

The first half was dominated by shooting from beyond the arc, as the two teams combined for 17 three-point makes. The Bluejays went 10-for-16 from deep in the first 20 minutes, while the Redbirds hit 7-of-15 attempts.

McDermott opened the second half for Creighton by scoring his first basket since the 19:08 mark of the first half and only his second of the game. Brown hit a three from the corner on the next possession to bring ISU back within two, before Gibbs and Carmichael traded buckets to make it 46-44 in favor of Creighton. After an Echenique dunk, Keane hit his second three of the game to bring ISU within one at 48-47. However, the Bluejays responded with five-straight points, on an Echenique two and Austin Chatman three, to give them a 53-47 lead at the 15:26 mark.

Two three-pointers from Upshaw evened the game for the first time since the 19:08 mark of the first half, but McDermott responded with a three-point play to put Creighton back on top. Brown split through the Creighton defense for an uncontested lay in to bring ISU back within one, before Wragge tied his career-high in points (18) and three-pointers (six) with a triple from the wing, extending the lead to 59-55 with 13:47 left. After Avery Dingman added a floater to put Creighton up six, Upshaw slammed home a dunk in transition to bring ISU back within four. One possession later, Allen hit a three-pointer to bring ISU back within one yet again, 61-60, with 10:03 remaining.

With the Bluejays up 69-65 at the 5:12 mark, Brown found Carmichael for a two to bring ISU back within two, before Keane hit one free throw to make it a one-point game. That was the closest the Redbirds would get the rest of the way, as Carmichael missed a three-point attempt with the score 73-70 in the game's final minute.

The Redbirds will continue Valley play at Redbird Arena, Saturday, Jan. 5, against Northern Iowa. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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