Will Wichita State and Creighton ever play in basketball again?
Before Shocker coach Gregg Marshall left the media podium after Creighton defeated WSU 91-79 Saturday afternoon, he used the forum to express his desire to keep the series going. Creighton will reportedly soon be considering an offer to leave the Missouri Valley Conference for a newly-formed league.
“One other thing,” Marshall said, as the media started to disperse. “I forgot about this. I’ll go on record and say if they leave the Valley, we should continue our series. How’s that for a closing statement?”
Pretty strong, although Creighton coach Greg McDermott wasn’t crazy about being asked about the scenario just minutes after the Bluejays clinched the Valley regular-season title over the second-place Shockers.
“Everything’s possible,” McDermott said. “But we don’t have any idea, No. 1, if we’re even going to be invited. If we are, how many teams are in the league? It would really be premature to speculate. Obviously we have great respect for their program, and it’s been a great rivalry.”
If Creighton does stay in the Valley next season, it just might be without McDermott’s 6-foot-8 son Doug, a junior All-American who has developed into a decent NBA prospect. The younger McDermott scorched the Shockers for 41 points, making 15 of 18 shots, missing only three 3-pointers.
“It was an extremely loud 41,” Creighton guard Grant Gibbs said. “Every one of those buckets was huge. He was in a great rhythm. It was probably the best performance I’ve ever seen or been a part of.”
The younger McDermott refused to say if it might be his last home game as a Bluejay, but did call it his best game in the CenturyLink Center.
“It just felt really good,” said McDermott, the Valley’s reigning Player of the Year. “I was in the zone, my teammates just kept feeding me, and it was great.”
The older McDermott wouldn’t speculate on if his son would return for his senior season.
“I’d be fine with that,” he said. “I don’t think it’s any secret he makes me a better coach.”
It is the first outright regular-season Valley title for Creighton (24-7, 13-5) since the 2000-01 season. WSU (24-7, 12-6) finishes the regular season having lost five of their last nine conference games.
WSU guard Demetric Williams, who led the Shockers with 18 points and six assists, called it a regretful missed opportunity. The Shockers had a chance to win back-to-back Valley titles for the first time since 1964 and ’65.
“Most definitely,” Williams said. “We had a great opportunity to come in first if we would have taken care of business. Our destiny was in our hands, and we let it slip out. Now we’re in second. We just have to get back to how we were playing good defense.”
Creighton shot 70.2 percent in a game that had only 45 rebounds – 24 for the Bluejays, 21 for the Shockers.
Marshall’s a little sick about the missed opportunity, too, but didn’t feel the Shockers played poorly.
“Offensively, they were so good today,” Marshall said. “… We tried just about everything in our arsenal but they were spectacular today. We did not play that poorly, I didn’t think, except finding a way to stop Doug McDermott. He was special. … Once he got loose, it was really hard to get him under control.”
How do you guard that? - Marshall could only watch in awe as Gibbs snagged a wild pass, nearly fell out of bounds while falling into the Bluejays’ bench, threw up a shot and made a rainbow 3-pointer in the second half.
“When those things happen, it’s not your night,” Marshall said. “Greg (McDermott) and I looked eye-to-eye to each other. He did one of those (“what can you say” shrugs) and I just said, ‘Yeah, what do you do?’ It was really incredible.”
Still on the bubble? - Marshall said after the Shockers beat Detroit a week ago he thought they should be in the NCAA Tournament. He stood by that opinion Saturday, even though the Shockers have lost both games since, but still thinks a good run in the Valley Tournament is vital.
“I don’t want to take chances,” Marshall said. “I want to win some games, if not win the whole tournament. That’s the goal. Then it’s a moot point.”
Marshall was quick to point out that Creighton won the Valley Tournament after finishing second to WSU in the regular season a year ago.
“What we’ve got to do it reverse the roles,” Marshall said. “It doesn’t mean we have to win the tournament, I hope. But we need to go win some games, I think, just to … dispel any doubt about our resume.”
Tough at home - Saturday’s crowd of 18,613 was the second-most in Creighton men’s basketball history, and was their eighth sellout this season. Over the last 18 seasons, the Bluejays are 17-1 in home finales, including a 6-0 record against WSU.