Shockers upset No. 12 Creighton to take MVC

Wichita State is 17-2 overall, 6-1 in conference play and ranked No. 20 in this week’s AP poll.

Not bad for a rebuilding team full of no name players that was picked to finish fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference this season.

Before Saturday, there were still plenty of doubters. WSU had been in and out of the Top 25 a few times this season, most recently dropping out after losing on the road to Evansville 71-67 on Jan. 13.

Before Saturday, virtually no one doubted the Creighton Bluejays. The pre-season MVC favorites, led by national player-of-the-year candidate Doug McDermott, sits atop the NCAA in points per game (78.9) and three-point shooting (45.2 percent with nearly 10 makes a game).

After Saturday, the MVC hierarchy has now shifted the way of the Shockers.

WSU upset then-No. 12 Creighton 67-64 in Koch Arena on national TV in front of a sold out, blacked-out crowd, a win that has completely changed the MVC landscape.

“This is as good as it gets for a college basketball atmosphere,” Doug McDermott said. “It’s tough to come here to win. I’ve lost two times in three years here. It’s always been one of my favorite places to play. It’s as good as it gets in college basketball.”

The win didn’t come easy and wasn’t pretty for WSU. Creighton still managed to shoot 40 percent (eight makes) from beyond the arc, and Doug McDermott, who ranks second in the nation with 24.1 points per game, scored 25.

On the flip side WSU was a dismal 4 for 23 from three (17.4 percent) and made only 9 of 19 free throws, including many key misses in the final moments.

But none of those numbers mattered in the end.

“The numbers don’t add up,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “The defense and rebounding was just good enough. Not too many teams can hold Creighton to 64.”

And the way WSU plays—with defense and rebounding—the numbers don’t always have to add up.

WSU once again won the rebounding battle, 44-41, bringing in 22 offensive rebounds. And most importantly, WSU’s defense, which ranks No. 46 in the nation while giving up 60.1 points per game, held arguably the nation’s best offense 17 points below its average.

“Our problems started when the ball went up to the rim,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “To come in here and win, you’ve got to have a little more toughness.”

For now, the win has the Shockers back on top of the Valley, the same place they finished last season. A lot can change by the end of the season, but the way its looking the MVC title could come down to just one game.

WSU will visit Omaha, Neb., in the season finale on March 2 against Creighton.

Marshall knows he will need a little more attention to detail if he wants to pull that one out, but also knows there is a lot of work to do before the finale can be considered a de facto MVC championship game.

“We didn’t allow them to separate,” Marshall said. “They’re a very good team and they’ve got a great chance to be right there at the end. Hopefully, we can be right there with them.”

WSU plays at Missouri State (5-14, 3-4 MVC) tonight at 7 p.m. before returning home on Saturday against Bradley.