No. 16 Creighton Holds Off Illinois State, 79-72
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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