Creighton's reputation as a score-first, no-defense team is history. Wichita State's reputation as a team that can't defend its home court lives on.
The 21st-ranked Bluejays defeated WSU 68-61 on Saturday at Koch Arena. They held the Shockers to 33.3-percent shooting and their second-lowest point total of the season.
"We missed shots," WSU guard Joe Ragland said. "We got wide-open shots, including myself, that I normally make and I missed."
The Shockers (10-3, 1-1 Missouri Valley Conference) lost their fourth conference game at home in 2011. The three losses last season cost WSU a regular-season title. There is time to recover from Saturday's disappointment, but the Shockers missed a chance to dump Creighton (11-2, 1-1) into an 0-2 hole.
The game between the preseason favorites didn't play out according to the script. WSU's defense kept the MVC's top scorers in check. It held Creighton forward Doug McDermott to 12 points, half his average.
"The defensive end wasn't our problem — 68 should be good enough," WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. "I was disappointed in our (offensive) execution. I was disappointed in our ability to read the situation and function efficiently offensively."
Creighton's defense, supposed to be a problem area, frustrated the Shockers. WSU made 19 of 57 shots and missed 19 of its 26 three-point tries. When WSU rallied in the final minutes, a series of rushed three-pointers let the Bluejays off the hook.
The Bluejays rebounded from their MVC-opening loss to Missouri State by focusing on defense. Center Gregory Echenique was able to guard WSU's post players one-on-one, which allowed Bluejay guards to get a hand in the face of shooters and cut off penetration.
"We were able to force some tough threes, especially late in (shot) clocks," Creighton guard Grant Gibbs said. "Our strength defensively all year has been Gregory anchoring the post. Off that, we are able to get out on shooters more."
Echenique (6-foot-9, 270 pounds) blocked one shot and used his strength to push WSU center Garrett Stutz into difficult shots.
"By Stutz not being able to get easy baskets against him, it allowed us to do what we needed to do defensively," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
WSU dominated the final minutes of the first half, outscoring Creighton 12-3 to go up 39-31. The Bluejays bounced back in the second half as WSU's offense faltered.
WSU led 46-39 after Carl Hall scored on a putback, bringing the sold-out crowd to its loudest point. Gibbs responded with a jumper. Stutz missed his next two shots and Hall picked up his third foul with 14 minutes remaining.
Hall scored 17 points and grabbed a season-high 13 rebounds, five on the offensive glass. When he went to the bench, WSU's offense went with him.
After two misses by Stutz, Gibbs fed Echenique for a dunk to cut WSU's lead to 46-43. Gibbs stripped Toure Murry, leading to a three-pointer by McDermott to tie the game.
A jumper by Antoine Young gave Creighton the lead for good, 51-49, with 9:33 to play.
With Hall sitting, no Shocker stepped up.
Stutz didn't score in the second half, missing four shots. Murry missed three shots and scored one point. David Kyles went 0 for 5 from three-point range.
Shots bounced away. Stutz couldn't score in the lane. Murry couldn't break down the defense by driving into the lane and finding open shooters.
"We've got a great penetrator in Toure Murry, and every time he drove the lane they closed down on him," Ragland said. "They clogged the lane and they made us shoot threes. Tonight wasn't our night."
Josh Jones made a three to push the lead to 60-51 with 5:24 to play.
WSU cut the lead to 63-59 with 1:07 to play. Kyles forced an off-balance three that missed. Young's free throws made it 65-59. Ragland quickly responded with a layup. Murry stole a pass by Gibbs, but the Shockers botched the possession when Smith rushed a long three. Two free throws by Gibbs with 29 seconds to play gave Creighton a 67-61 lead.
The loss sends the Shockers on the road for two games this week, at Evansville and Southern Illinois. Instead of setting the pace in the MVC, they will try not to get left behind.
"A loss is a loss," Ragland said. "We've got to bounce back because you don't want to lose your next one. We know that we're still going to be at the top of this when it's all said and done."