Feb. 14, 2012
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Creighton put on a shooting clinic in an 88-69 win over Southern Illinois on Tuesday night, snapping a three-game losing streak.
The Bluejays (22-5, 12-4) blistered the nets by making a Missouri Valley Conference-record 77.5 percent from the field. They nearly toppled the NCAA mark of 81.4 percent set by New Mexico versus Oregon State in 1985.
During its recent three-game slide, Creighton shot just 40 percent from the field, but the Salukis (8-19, 5-11) have been the perfect tonic for teams struggling to shoot the ball lately. Last Saturday, Indiana State broke out of a season-long shooting slump to make an NCAA record 12-of-12 shots from 3-point against SIU.
Creighton picked up where the Sycamores left off, making 12-of-14 in the game. Larry Bird in his prime couldn't make 24-of-26 shots from outside the arc, but that's exactly what SIU's opponents have done to Southern in a two-game span that began last Saturday.
"Twenty-four of 26 from three the last two games is terrible, and that's on me," acknowledged SIU head coach Chris Lowery. "Our guards have to do a better job of finding shooters."
The win was critical for the previously ranked Bluejays, who began the season 21-2, but are now fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament field after losing to Northern Iowa, Evansville and Wichita State in the last 10 days.
"I never lost confidence in these guys' ability to shoot the basketball," said Creighton head coach Greg McDermott. "The shots we had tonight were very similar to the shots we had at Evansville, and were some of the same shots we had against Wichita State."
Sharpshooters Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Manigat each made 5-of-6 from 3-point range for the Bluejays, as open shots against SIU's defense were plentiful. The inside play of Doug McDermott (18 points, 7-of-7 shooting) and Gregory Echenique (15 points, 4-of-4 shooting) supplemented Creighton's attack. Guard Antoine Young didn't make a three, but he directed the offense with eight assists and added 15 points of his own.
Lowery said his team is struggling to execute the defensive concepts that carried the program to six-straight NCAA Tournament berths last decade.
"It's not a game that was invented yesterday -- these are things we've done to win championships, and we just need to get these guys to understand it," he said. "We have some guys playing hard, but we also have some guys that are struggling mentally."
There was nothing wrong with Southern's offense, especially in the first half. The Salukis did not make a turnover during the first 15 minutes of the game and led, 25-24, with 5:09 remaining in the half.
The problem was, Creighton kept making shots, while SIU's offense eventually faltered. The Jays finished the half with a 15-5 run that included three 3-pointers.
The second half was a carbon-copy of the first, as Creighton again made 6-of-7 from 3-point. After shooting 75 percent in the first half, the Jays hit 80 percent in the second half.
"The last three games they haven't made any," Lowery said. "They came in here and played like their post-season depended on it."
Mamadou Seck scored 16 points for Southern, and freshman center Dantiel Daniels had another solid outing with 12 points, but it was not enough to prevent SIU's third-straight loss and ninth-straight to Creighton.
"Offensively, we did a good enough job with only having six turnovers and 15 assists and forcing them into 16 turnovers," Lowery said. "But when you allow somebody to get that many open attempts from three, or you're that late on a rotation, then that's a problem."