GAME NOTES: The Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title is on the line tonight when the Creighton Bluejays close out their schedule against the visiting Wichita State Shockers at CenturyLink Center Omaha.
These teams entered the weekend in a tie for first place in the MVC standings. Wichita State won the first meeting this season back on Jan. 19, notching a 67-64 victory over the Bluejays, who were ranked 12th in the nation at the time. Still, Creighton leads the all-time series, 53-45.
Working in Creighton's favor is its 14-2 home record this season. The Bluejays have won three of their last four games overall, and that includes Wednesday's impressive 80-62 road win over Bradley. A win here would lock up the Bluejays' first outright MVC regular-season title since 2000-01.
Wichita State put itself in this must-win scenario by suffering a surprising 59-56 home loss to Evansville on Wednesday. That outcome snapped a five-game winning streak for the Shockers and also erased their one-game lead over Creighton in the conference standings. The Shockers are the reigning MVC regular-season champions and last year went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.
Wichita State outrebounded Evansville by a huge 42-23 margin, including an 18-3 edge on the offensive glass. Those types of numbers tend to result in victory more often than not, however the Shockers picked a bad time to have a poor shooting night as they were just 38.2 percent from the floor and only 4- of-19 from beyond the arc. Tekele Cotton's 12 points and nine boards paced the team in both categories. Cleanthony Early was the only other player in double figures for WSU, as he finished with 10 points but shot just 3-of-11 from the floor. Anthony, the Shockers' leading scorer with 14.6 points per game, has been coming off the bench for each of the last six contests. Carl Hall (12.3 ppg) is pulling down a team-best 7.0 rebounds per game, while Malcolm Armstead (10.0 ppg) has knocked down a team-high 48 3-pointers (.366).
The Bluejays are not quite as balanced as their counterpart, but they do boast Naismith Award candidate and reigning All-American Doug McDermott, who currently ranks fourth in the nation with 22.4 ppg. McDermott has the all- around game to hurt opponents in a number of ways. He is Creighton's top rebounder (7.7 rpg) and also possesses elite shooting touch, as he is 47 percent from beyond the arc (60-of-127) and 86 percent from the free-throw line (149-of-173). Against Bradley earlier this week, McDermott shot 12-of-17 from the floor and finished with a game-high 32 points and 11 rebounds. Will Artino provided a spark off the bench with 10 points and seven boards in 17 minutes of floor time. After leading by four at the half, the Bluejays took control with a 57.1-percent shooting effort in the second stanza as their lead swelled to as many as 27.
The schedule could not have worked out any better heading into this final game, as the top two teams in the MVC will get the chance to settle the league crown on the floor. Homecourt advantage will be a huge factor for the Bluejays as they eye up their 15th MVC regular-season crown.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Creighton 75, Wichita State 72
03/02 10:43:45 ET
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