Thursday, December 1, 2011

Creighton's win is a bigger statement than the box score suggests

This was more than just a resume win for Creighton.

Sure, the NCAA Tournament selection committee is going to look fondly an 85-83 victory on the road against San Diego State, a contender for the Mountain West title. That's certainly not a bad thing.

But for Creighton, this was so much more.

This was a statement win.

And unless you're lucky enough to have a cable operator than actually carries The MTN -- the network for the MWC -- or you're crazy enough to try and watch a late-november game between two schools where the casual fan wouldn't be able to name a single player via a choppy, grainy internet stream, you probably will have no idea what happened.

The Bluejays are a top 25 team right now, but heading into their date with the Aztecs at Viejas Arena, they were an unproven top 25 team. That 5-0 record looked pretty -- as did the impressive offensive numbers they put up -- but their only wins of significance were getting less and less significant which each loss that UAB and Iowa piled up.

Creighton needed to be tested. They needed to prove their merit, that they deserved their lofty ranking. Fair or not, when you are a team in the Missouri Valley that's ranked early in the season, that's the way that life goes. Mid-majors don't get the benefit of the doubt until they prove they deserve.

And the Bluejays certainly proved they deserve it on Wednesday night.

Playing in front of a frenzied crowd of 12,000 people -- complete with one of the "livest student sections ever" -- Creighton dug themselves a 17 point hole, trailing 31-14 with just over 13 minutes into the game. But Ethan Wragge sparked, and Doug McDermott finished off, a 21-8 run to close the half and get the Aztec lead down to just four. Creighton eventually tied the game for the first time at 46 on a three from Jahenns Manigat with 16:51 left, but San Diego State immediately countered with a 10-2 run, pushing the lead right back to eight points and getting their frothing at the mouth once again.

Wragge once again was the sparkplug, hitting a three that sparked a 15-4 run. It was capped off by back-to-back jumpers from Antoine Young, the latter of which was a three that gave Creighton their first lead of the game. The two sides traded baskets until Wragge once again came through with a big shot, hitting a three that put Creighton up for good at 72-69. The excitement was far from over -- after Creighton pushed their lead to six, SDSU hit three straight threes to get within a single point, but Manigat found (guess who?) Wragge for a layup to push the lead to three. It was Manigat diving on a loose ball after a missed free throw with 2.3 seconds left that clinched the two point win.

Frankly, wins don't get much more impressive than that.

The Bluejays were able to come from behind twice -- one time from down 17 -- to win on the road in a hostile environment in the middle of the week after traveling across the country against a team that has proven to be better than just about anyone predicted.

McDermott was, once again, terrific, finishing with 25 points and 12 boards while seemingly never having the ball in his hands. Wragge, a sophomore forward, had 19 points hit too many big shots to count. Young had his best game of the season, finishing with 18 points, four assists and no turnovers.

As a team, Creighton shot 47% from the floor and hit nine threes. The handed out 18 assists -- on 31 FG's -- while turning the ball over just seven times.

As impressive as those numbers are, looking at the box score will never tell you just how important this win was for the Bluejays.


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