GAME NOTES: The Missouri Valley Conference regular season champion Creighton
Bluejays will get their first taste of postseason play on Friday when they
take on the ninth-seeded Drake Bulldogs at the Scottrade Center in the second
round of Arch Madness.
Drake took down Bradley, 81-66, on Thursday to advance past its first-round
matchup as Chris Hines led the team with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from
the floor. The Bulldogs received a huge lift from reserves, Joey King and Gary
Ricks, Jr., who scored 15 and 14 points, respectively. King and Ricks, Jr.'s
outputs were needed as Ben Simons (14.3 ppg) and Jordan Clark (9.4 ppg)
combined for just 13 points with the former going 2-of-9 from the field.
Creighton clinched the regular-season title on the last game of the season in
a win over Wichita State. Although this marks the first time since 2001 the
Bluejays have earned the No. 1 seed, they've won six MVC Tournament crowns
since 1999, including last season when they defeated Illinois State. The
Bluejays are led by Doug McDermott, who is a two-time MVC Player of the Year
winner. The 6-foot-8 junior is the nation's third-leading scorer, netting 23.4
ppg with outstanding percentages from the field (.560).
Creighton coasted past Drake in the inaugural meeting of the 2012-13 campaign
between these schools in Omaha to claim a 91-61 victory. The Bulldogs avoided
the season series sweep 15 days later as they upset the Bluejays, 74-69, to
defend their home court. Creighton leads the all-time series, 93-59. Creighton
is 4-2 all-time against Drake in the MVC Tournament.
The Bulldogs' use a run-and-gun style that helped them average 72.4 ppg, but
they also surrender a league-high 72.7 ppg. Simons is the only double-digit
scorer for Drake, and he can not afford another off-day in the second chapter
of the MVC Tournament. Despite a forgettable performance by its go-to-guy,
Drake put on a stellar shooting display versus the Braves, shooting 50 percent
from the field at 27-of-54 and 40 percent from behind the arc (12-of-30) on
the night. The team also made 15-of-18 free throws, including eight in a row
to end the game.
McDermott drove Creighton to the MVC regular-season title as he was perfect in
10 attempts from two-point range and finished 15-for-18 overall to score his
41 points. It was the second-highest total of his career, trailing only the 44
he put up at Bradley last season. The entire squad followed suit as it shot
70.2 percent from the floor to mark the nation's sixth best clip this season.
The outburst made McDermott the only player on a Division I school's roster
with more than 700 points on the season. Senior center Gregory Echenique is
the second leading scorer at 9.6 ppg. Echenique is the two-time reigning shot
blocking champion in the conference while MVC Sixth Man of the Year, Ethan
Wragge (7.8 ppg) provides accurate long-range shooting to keep opponents from
keying on McDermott.
The Bulldogs may have caught the Bluejays off-guard in their second bout of
the season, but Creighton has raised its level of play in recent weeks to stay
parallel with the increased stakes. McDermott and company may have built a
resume strong enough to earn an at-large bid into the Big Dance, but it would
be foolish of them to leave it up to chance.