OMAHA — Wichita State couldn’t score against Evansville. It couldn’t play defense against Creighton.
That is the recipe for a disappointing end to the regular season for the Shockers, who blew a one-game lead with two to play and ended up as a prop for Creighton’s senior-day celebration in Saturday’s 91-79 loss at the CenturyLink Center. Creighton won the Missouri Valley Conference title, in front of 18,613 fans, and the loss stuck WSU in second place.
Not bad for a team picked fourth in the preseason, but not good with the way it ended.
The Shockers (24-7, 12-6 MVC) will go to the conference tournament in St. Louis knowing they kicked away a precious conference title by losing 59-56 at home to Evansville on Wednesday. Then the Bluejays (24-7, 13-5) ran over them with a scoring explosion for the ages.
Junior forward Doug McDermott scored 41 points on 15-of-18 shooting and Creighton made 33 of 47 shots (70.2 percent), the best by an opponent in WSU history.
“This team is built on defense and rebounding,” WSU guard Demetric Williams said. “We let their best player get off. It’s all on how he starts, and we let him start off good. It’s hard to stop a good player once he gets going.”
Oscar Robertson scored 50 against the Shockers in 1958 and Larry Bird went for 49 in 1979. Add McDermott’s name to that list.
WSU tried everything and none of it slowed him down. He made three-pointers. He scored in the lane, getting great position and working over and through defenders. He made one outrageous three after a step-back dribble and all the Shockers could do was watch and try to get a hand in his face.
“He was special,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “I mean, 41 points on 18 shots, that’s spectacular.”
Everything about the Bluejays looked that way, and against a tough defensive team. The Shockers played well on offense and couldn’t keep up.
Creighton made 20 of 28 shots in the second half to score 55 points. The 91 points are the most given up in regulation by a Marshall-coached team at WSU.
“With what was on the line against a big rival, it just doesn’t get much better than this,” McDermott said. “The coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for putting together a good scouting report.’’
Creighton’s starters made 27 of 37 shots. Guard Austin Chatman scored 12 points, as did forward Grant Gibbs. Forward Ethan Wragge came off the bench to make 3 of 4 threes, two back-breakers in the second half.
“Offensively, they were so good,” Marshall said. “They were spectacular. We tried just about everything in our arsenal.”
WSU’s Williams tied a career-high with 18 points. The Shockers scored 49 second-half points, making 16 of 25 shots. Even at that clip, they couldn’t trade baskets.
“They didn’t miss shots,” WSU guard Malcolm Armstead said. “There’s not much you can do when you can’t gets stops.”
Creighton’s offense hit a high gear in the second half and WSU couldn’t keep up. Even when McDermott went to the bench, the Bluejays kept rolling. A 13-5 run gave them a 66-54 lead and forced Marshall to call timeout with 8:23 remaining.
After that, Creighton’s Grant Gibbs threw in a desperation shot, while falling out of bounds, at the shot-clock buzzer for a 69-54 lead.
At that point, Marshall said he looked at Creighton coach Greg McDermott in wonderment, who returned a shrug.
WSU rallied, cutting the lead to 71-65. That only sparked another Bluejay burst, with Doug McDermott getting open for threes. He made one over Carl Hall for a 74-65 lead. One from the corner, uncontested, gave Creighton a 77-66 lead.
WSU started the first half looking timid and unsure how to attack. It missed four three-pointers in the first five minutes. After a timeout, a shot-clock violation made the Shockers look even more off track. Creighton built an 11-4 lead, with McDermott scoring nine of those points.
It took a burst of defense for WSU to look serious about winning. Armstead’s three-pointer cut Creighton’s lead to 19-15. His steal led to a dunk by Cleanthony Early. Then the Shockers played a ferocious 30 seconds of defense, with Williams wrestling with McDermott in the lane, before Creighton’s Avery Dingman missed a contested three. Tekele Cotton’s three gave the Shockers their first lead at 20-19.
WSU took its biggest lead of the half, 27-23, on a follow shot by Hall. Early picked up his second foul with 4:23 remaining and exited, handing momentum back to Creighton. It finished the half on a 12-4 run to lead 36-31.