The Illinois State Redbirds found themselves in familiar territory Friday night against No. 21 Creighton at Redbird Arena.
On Wednesday night, the Redbirds fought back from a 19-point deficit to lose at Wichita State by five points.
Call it a moral victory.
The Redbirds were down by 18 points in the second half tonight against Creighton, but fought to bring the score to within two points against the Missouri Valley Conference frontrunners. Creighton won 87 to 78.
Does this similar situation present a second moral victory?
Junior Jackie Carmichael, who scored 14 points, dismissed any similarities between the Wichita State loss and Creighton.
“It was it’s own game,” Carmichael said during the postgame press conference. “We played tough and fought back.”
Most of that “fight” belonged to Minnesota transfer and reserve, Bryant Allen. Allen scored 29 points to lead all scorers. He recorded five three-pointers in nine attempts.
“Open shots presented themselves, and I took them,” Allen remarked.
Little did he know, shooting from beyond the arc played right into Creighton’s game plan.
Will Illinois State be a threat to win the MVC tournament?
Creighton head coach Greg McDermott claimed in the postgame press conference that the Bluejays’ strategy was to keep Illinois State off the foul line. Clogging the interior, however, would leave the perimeter open.
McDermott’s strategy paid off. The Redbirds made just eight three-pointers out of 32 attempts.
Creighton’s Doug McDermott, the second-highest scorer in the nation, posted a team-high 20 points for the Bluejays.
The turning point in the game came with 25 seconds remaining and Creighton leading by four points. ISU’s Johnny Hill was called for a flagrant foul on Creighton’s Grant Gibbs. A second technical was issued to Hill and he was ejected.
Creighton’s Gibbs and teammate Antoine Young sank three free throws to extend the lead to six points.
A third technical foul was handed out moments later to the Illinois State fans for what appeared to be an object thrown onto the court.
The contest was signed, sealed, and delivered in favor of the Bluejays at that point.
The two teams face off again on February 1 in Omaha. ISU will be looking for a different result on the road.
“I think we can beat them,” Carmichael said. “When someone shoots 57 percent [Creighton made 32 of 56 field goals], it’s going to be hard to beat them.”
Creighton extends its overall record to 15-2 (5-1 in the MVC), while Illinois State drops to 11-6 (3-3 in the MVC).