Rushed Reactions: Creighton 68, Wichita State 65Posted by dnspewak on March 10th, 2013
Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Scottrade Center following Sunday’s Missouri Valley championship game.
Three Key Takeaways.
- The Last Hurrah: Rumors have swirled all weekend about Creighton’s departure to the Big East, and there’s a widespread feeling here in St. Louis that the Bluejays will never make this pilgrimage to Arch Madness ever again. That’s sad for the nostalgic and sentimental folks in the Valley, but if it’s the last time Creighton ever competes in this tournament, it could not have exited in more memorable fashion. After Doug McDermott shook off a poor first half to help his team open up a double-digit lead late in the second half, Wichita State nearly erased a 13-point deficit with 4:21 remaining in regulation. Malcolm Armstead, the hero of the afternoon with a career-high 28 points for the Shockers, had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer but missed wide left off the rim with a hand in his face. “I didn’t get a good look like I should have,” Armstead said. And so the Creighton faithful stormed the floor, One Shining Moment played a few minutes later, and the Shockers once again walked away from St. Louis without an Arch Madness title — they’ve never won this championship in this city. The Bluejays, on the other hand, have owned this league, and they’ve now won two straight MVC Tournament titles. “It says a lot about how special a group of guys we have,” Creighton’s Gregory Echenique said. “I’m just glad we were able to accomplish this and prove a lot of people wrong.” Heck of a way to say goodbye.
- Defensive Battle: It’s the old chicken-or-the-egg argument: Was Sunday’s title game a display of good defense or bad offense? The two teams both shot just south of 35 percent from the floor, and the first five minutes of the game were nothing short of brutal on the offensive end. Creighton and Wichita State combined to start 0-of-14 from the field, even though they warmed up after releasing a little nervous energy. The physicality had to have taken a toll. The officials allowed the players to play what looked like a controlled brawl. “To me, it felt like we were Muhammad Ali out there, boxing the whole time,” Wichita’s Ron Baker said. “Went through all the rounds.” That’s a pretty accurate description of the game. Everybody got on the floor. Everybody hacked each other, call or no call. In the end, it facilitated a rough but entertaining basketball game.
- No Big Loss: Wichita State’s players were crushed after the game. Understandable. So was Gregg Marshall, who told the media he expects the underclassmen in this program to eventually get over the hump and use this loss as a catapult to a future MVC Tournament title. But with the NCAA Tournament looming, the Shockers can erase the sting of this loss almost immediately. They’ll give people fits, too. Their depth, athleticism and defensive ability is unparalleled, and Marshall’s unorthodox substitution patterns will cause problems for teams with poor ball-handlers and less depth. Wichita State isn’t a perfect offensive team, nor is it guaranteed to even win a game in March Madness, but there’s no reason the Shockers can’t reach the second weekend. This team is built to disrupt unfamiliar teams from outside of their conference.
Star of the Game: Malcolm Armstead earns this honor in a losing effort. WSU’s leading scorer, Cleanthony Early, did not score in the first half and finished with just two points. Armstead picked up the slack. He scored 10 straight points during the first half, finished with 28 total and made a critical three-pointer to cut the deficit to one point in the final minute. He missed the final shot of the game, yes, but that was a tough look and a chaotic situation. Besides that miss, Armstead was the only reliable offensive threat for the Shockers — without him, this team never even would have had a chance to tie the game. “He was dynamite,” Marshall said. “He carried us in a lot of ways.”
Sights and Sounds: Right after Armstead’s shot, Marshall set up two scenarios for his team in the timeout, depending on whether Creighton scored or not. He told his team repeatedly that they had “plenty of time,” and to not panic no matter what happened on the defensive possession. The Bluejays scored, of course, and then Armstead had the final chance to tie it. Marshall opted not to call a timeout after the Creighton basket, but it’s hard to imagine it would have made too much of a difference.
Wildcard: Grant Gibbs and Austin Chatman combined for 14 assists and two turnovers. That’s exactly why the Bluejays’ offense runs so efficiently. After the graduation of Antoine Young, it was a mystery as to whether both of those guys could fill the void at the point. They’ve gone above and beyond that calling, and Sunday was a perfect example of their importance to this team.
Quotable: “It’s just an unbelievable rivalry we have with Wichita State. I certainly don’t think there’s a lot of love lost between us, but there’s certainly a lot of respect.” –Creighton coach Greg McDermott
What’s Next: Creighton earns the Valley’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and Wichita State should have no trouble grabbing an at-large bid. A week from today, we’ll find out where the committee sends them.