WICHITA, Kan. — Two sets of numbers underscore why Creighton saw its 11-game winning streak come to an end Saturday in a 67-64 loss to Wichita State.
The first is 23-5. That’s the advantage the Shockers finished with in second-chance points. The second is 11-6, the edge Wichita State had in points off turnovers.
“Coming in here, our points of emphasis were defensive rebounding and taking care of the ball,” Creighton guard Grant Gibbs said. “We probably got an ‘F’ and ‘D’ in those two grades. That’s kind of the story right there.”
Despite having twice as many turnovers as Wichita State (14-7) and giving up a back-breaking 22 offensive rebounds, the 12th-ranked Bluejays had two chances in the final 10 seconds to send the game into overtime.
Trailing by three, Creighton got the ball to Ethan Wragge in the corner. His open look was just off, and Carl Hall was fouled after he grabbed his 13th rebound of the game with six seconds remaining.
Hall, who had missed three of his previous four free throws, stepped to the line and missed two more. Wragge grabbed the rebound, dished it off to Austin Chatman and then got it back for another open look from about 24 feet in front of the basket.
The shot was again on target but hit the rim and bounced away, sending an already-delirious sellout crowd of 10,506 at Koch Arena into pandemonium.
“I thought both of them were in,” Wragge said.
As is usually the case when a game comes down to a last shot, this one was won and lost long before the ball left Wragge’s hand on either of the last two attempts.
“You can’t turn it over twice as many times as they do and give them that many second opportunities on the backboards and expect to be in the game,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “But we still had a chance to tie it in the closing seconds.”
McDermott praised his team for its competitiveness. He said the Bluejays played well enough offensively to win. Creighton also could have won with its initial defensive efforts, McDermott said.
But it’s those 22 offensive rebounds that will stick in the coach’s craw for a while.
“They shoot 17 percent from 3 and 38 percent from the field, and in this building those are good enough numbers to win,” McDermott said. “You have to point to something, and that 22 really stands out.
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“A third of those were team rebounds that were getting tipped around. We were in a good position a lot of times, but we just have to go get it. We’re not as blessed athletically as Wichita State, so our technique needs to be better. At times, our technique failed us.”
Hall, playing for just the second time since coming back from a broken thumb, had six of his rebounds on the offensive end. On one first-half possession, he missed two point-blank shots, rebounded both and finally finished off the third one.
“He was ready to play today,” Creighton forward Doug McDermott said. “We know that’s his game, crashing the boards and using his athleticism and his toughness. We just have to do a better job on him the next time.”
That will come at the end of the regular season, when Wichita State will visit the CenturyLink Center on Creighton’s Senior Day. For now, Saturday’s outcome left the teams tied for the Missouri Valley lead at 6-1 and 17-2 overall.
“The most important thing was we did not allow them to get separation on us,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “They’re a team that is going to be right there at the end. Hopefully, we can be right there with them.
“Tonight, we’re in first because we beat them head-to-head. It’s a good feeling for this group, with all the adversity we’ve faced.”
The 6-foot-8 Hall, who missed a month with his injury, led the Shockers with 17 points, and he got support from Malcolm Armstead with 15, Cleanthony Early with 13 and Demetric Williams with 10.
It was Armstead who turned in a clutch defensive play late in the game when he doubled down on Doug McDermott and stole the ball from the Creighton star as he was working inside for a shot. At the time, the Bluejays trailed 64-63.
“I was trying to freeze him to see what he was going to do,” McDermott said. “Right when I put it on the floor, he got his hand in there. It was a foolish turnover by me. It was a good play by him, but it’s something I have to get better at if teams are going to do that.”
Wichita State got a point off the turnover when Hall made the second of two free throws for a 65-63 lead with 48 seconds to play. Creighton had a chance to tie 23 seconds later when Gibbs was fouled on a drive to the basket.
Gibbs, who had made 67.6 percent of his free throws, missed the first one but converted the second to again pull Creighton within a point. Armstead then gave Wichita State its final margin when he made two free throws with 13 seconds remaining.
Creighton called time after getting the ball across half-court to set up a play. After taking the inbounds pass, Chatman rifled a pass to Wragge, who was wide open in the corner.
“That’s a play we’ve been saving for a moment like that,” Wragge said. “No one had seen it yet, and it got me a good look.”
Wragge’s last two misses left Creighton 8 of 20 (40 percent) from beyond the arc. The Bluejays came into the game having shot 55 percent from 3-point range in their first six conference games, as well as leading the nation in both 3-point baskets and percentage.
McDermott led the Bluejays with 25 points, a dozen more than he had scored in any of his previous four games against the Shockers. Gibbs added 14 along with eight assists, and Gregory Echenique had his best game in two weeks in finishing with nine points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots.
“That was a great college basketball game that had a little of everything,” Greg McDermott said. “Both teams really competed. To come in here and win, you have to have toughness and you have to play smart. And at times, we didn’t do either.”
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