Creighton was on top of the world after its 102-74 demolition of Illinois State Feb. 1. The Bluejays were at the top of the Missouri Valley Conference standings at 11-1, they were the only nationally ranked team in the Valley, and they already dismissed their only real competition for the Valley title, Wichita State, on the road.
Oh, what two weeks can do a team.
Creighton comes to Carbondale tonight to take on the Salukis at 7:05 p.m. The Bluejays lost their last three games, including a buzzer-beater at Northern Iowa Feb. 4 and a 21-point throttling from Wichita State Saturday in the Bluejays’ own building.
“They’re a good team, so obviously they’re a little bit down with where they are,” said coach Chris Lowery. “It doesn’t help that the national media is killing them at this point about whether or not they’re going to (make the NCAA tournament). Those are the pressures when you make a run like that.”
Weeks ago, it seemed inevitable that Creighton would repeat their Valentine’s Day massacre from 2008, when the Bluejays beat SIU by 22. But now the Salukis get the chance to kick their arch-rivals while they’re down, just a couple days after Creighton’s tough loss to Wichita State.
“The good thing is the short turnaround for (Wichita State), where they don’t get the chance to sit and stew and think about what just happened,” Lowery said. “We get them at a better time where they don’t have a lot of time to prepare and think about it.”
Overall, Creighton is the 10th-best scoring team in the nation with 79.5 points per game and first in the nation with a .504 field goal percentage. In the three games the team has lost, it is only averaging 62.3 points per game with a .410 field goal percentage.
The sad thing is the numbers for Creighton during its three-game losing streak are right in line with the Salukis’ averages for the season: 63.0 points per game and a .415 field goal percentage.
But Creighton’s performance from beyond the arc has been horrific in the last three games. Its percentage from three this season is .426, but just .230 in the last three games.
Lowery said the reason Creighton struggled was because the players besides Creighton’s star players, sophomore forward Doug McDermott and junior center Gregory Echenique, haven’t been producing like they were earlier in the season.
“(McDermott) and Echenique both, everybody’s double-teaming both because if you don’t, they put up huge numbers on us,” Lowery said. “Kicking it out has been the biggest issue. Early on, they were making everything from three, but now, on those kick-outs, they’ve struggled.”
So if the Salukis have any hope of winning tonight, they’ll have to make sure McDermott and Echenique don’t beat SIU by themselves. If those two are able to run rampant on the Saluki defense, it’ll be another Valentine’s Day massacre.