Creighton (20-6) at Evansville (14-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 16, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ford Center (11,000) -- Evansville, Indiana. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Creighton 13-2, Evansville 12-2. Away Record: Creighton 5-4, Evansville 2-10. Neutral Record: Creighton 2-0, Evansville 0-0. Conference Record: Creighton 9-5, Evansville 7-7. Series Record: Creighton leads, 28-10.
GAME NOTES: The Evansville Purple Aces look to remain perfect at home versus Missouri Valley Conference foes as they host the Creighton Bluejays at the Ford Center.
This will be the second meeting of the season between these schools. Creighton completed an 87-70 rout of the Purple Aces on Dec. 29 in Omaha to extend its all-time series lead to 28-10. Wooden Award candidate Doug McDermott scored 14 of his 29 points in a six and a half minute stretch in the second half to help the Bluejays pull away in the first matchup. Colt Ryan, who poured in 43 points in a game versus Creighton last season, led the Purple Aces with 25 points.
Greg McDermott's Bluejays are desperate for a win coming into Saturday after suffering a 61-54 loss at Northern Iowa on Wednesday to have their losing streak extended to a season-long three games. The younger McDermott posted 15 points and 12 boards for the squad that was No. 16 in the polls just a week before. Creighton shot 43.8 percent from the field, but went just 7-of-23 from beyond the arc and converted only 5-of-14 at the free-throw line. The Panthers drained 15-of-19 at the charity stripe to knock the Bluejays off the MVC peak and into a second place tie with Indiana State.
Although McDermott's 23.0 points per game make him the second leading scorer among Division I players and his 7.7 rebounds per contest are the most by any Bluejay, Creighton is not a one-dimensional team. The 6-foot-9 Gregory Echenique is one of the league's top centers due to his defensive presence, but he also contributes 9.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per tilt. Grant Gibbs, Ethan Wragge and Austin Chatman have all played vital roles in building the team's 20-6 overall record. The Bluejays, who lead the MVC in scoring at 76.9 ppg and have the second-highest field goal percentage in the nation (.507), have been less than stellar away from home with a 5-4 record in true road tests.
As for Evansville, it is fresh off of a 65-56 setback at Southern Illinois that marked the third loss in four games. Coach Marty Simmons, now in his sixth season at the helm of the program, watched his squad end up on the wrong end of a 17-4 run in the second half versus SIU as it fell to a team it had defeated by 17 points on Jan. 5. Ryan, who leads the team with 18.9 ppg, produced 21 in the setback to the Salukis.
Ned Cox is a serviceable second option for Evansville as he provides a long distance threat on the floor to chip in 11.2 ppg. Troy Taylor is one of the most active and versatile players in the country. The senior guard is posting 6.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game despite only working with a 6-foot-0, 184-pound frame. The Purple Aces have managed to outscore their opposition by an average of 2.6 ppg behind their talented trio's effort.
The final score was not a true indicator of the matchup between these teams in the first meeting. Creighton used a big run to create some space on the scoreboard, but it is much easier to generate those scoring streaks at home. The Bluejays are now playing to secure an at-large bid after putting themselves on the fringe. They will use this as a pivotal game to get their season back on track, but the Purple Aces will not make it easy.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Creighton 77, Evansville 70
02/16 11:50:48 ET