WICHITA, Kan. — Creighton’s three-point loss to Wichita State did nothing to alter Greg McDermott’s belief in his basketball team.
But Saturday’s 67-64 setback did reinforce in the coach’s mind that there is still a gap between the team the Bluejays are and the team that they want to be at the end of this season.
“We’re a very good basketball team,” McDermott said, “but if we want to become an elite team, there is a step we need to take.”
And it won’t be an easy one.
“Everyone is going to have to look in the mirror and squeeze every bit of energy and emotion out of our bodies to get us to reach our potential,” McDermott said. “I think we can do that. I really believe there is another small step for this team that is going to take us to a place that we really, really like.”
The Bluejays have taken some giant steps since last season in shoring up a defense that ranked in the bottom third nationally in several key statistical categories. For most of their 17-2 season, they’ve played smart basketball.
But against Wichita State, Creighton’s attention to detail slipped a bit and it wasn’t tough enough to match the intensity the Shockers brought to the game.
Fueled by a fired-up home following, Wichita State played with more aggressiveness than did Creighton. No facet of the game underscored that more than the 22 offensive rebounds the Shockers used to score 23 second-chance points.
Getting outscored 23-5 in second-chance points left McDermott’s players disappointed given the amount of focus rebounding had received in the days leading up to the game.
“We have to be a little tougher,” Creighton guard Grant Gibbs said. “We fought through some stuff but I think on a lot of those 22 offensive rebounds, toughness was involved. They were tougher than we were, and we have to find a way to dig a little deeper.
“I think as much we harped on offensive rebounding and all the drills we did in the days before the game, our level of awareness on that and our intensity wasn’t high enough.”
The loss snapped an 11-game winning streak that began after a Nov. 28 home loss to Boise State. Gibbs and several of his teammates blamed that defeat on a failure to follow the scouting report that led to multiple on-court breakdowns.
That also was a factor against the Shockers, forward Ethan Wragge said.
“We don’t have Kentucky athleticism,” Wragge said, “so when the coaches give us a plan, we have to do a better job of sticking to it every possession of the game. When we do that, we’re a lot better team.
“But we can’t take couple possessions off in these close games.”
Gibbs said scouting report breakdowns probably contributed to eight to 10 of the Shockers’ points.
“Our attention to detail wasn’t there for all 40 minutes, and that’s disappointing,” Gibbs said. “We knew we were going to get their best shot. They are a physical team and they played their game. We just didn’t do the things we needed to do well enough.”
That has to change, McDermott said, if the Bluejays want to reach the lofty goals they’ve set for themselves this season. The loss to the Shockers left Wichita State and Creighton tied for the Missouri Valley Conference lead with 6-1 records.
Creighton has a lot of ingredients to be a championship team in McDermott’s mind.
“Our guys are unselfish, they get basketball, they love to play with one another, there are no egos on this team and they’ve bought into what we’ve asked them to do defensively,” he said. “But we can take another step, I really believe that.
“We have to be an intelligent team and we have to be a fundamentally sound team. If we can do that, with how we play offensively, we still have a chance to have a real special season.”
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