In another disappointing loss, though we hesitate to call it an upset, resurgent Illinois State knocked off Creighton and moved back into the middle of the MVC, while Creighton's sole possession of first place disappeared.
Late Saturday night, Illinois State won their first road game against an opponent for the first time since 1985 by defeating No. 16 Creighton, 75-72.
Tyler Brown was playing out of his mind, using his speed to confuse defenders all night and finishing with 27 points. This also perhaps provides some proof of why his suspension was a big factor in the team's struggles up until recently.
The Redbirds Jackie Carmichael, who has been arguably the alternate MVP of the Missouri Valley Conference this season, was third on the team in scoring, with 16 points. Even you casual fans know that when your scoring leader finishes third in points, that's a good sign.
Doug McDermott had 24 points on the night, but he also contributed to the Bluejays three-point shooting failure, going 0-for-5 from deep for a team went 4-for-23 total, surprising since they usually shoot 44.3 percent.
After a back-and-forth first half, Illinois State took the lead with 14:38 left in the second half and didn't look back. Creighton had some truly surprising trouble penetrating the Redbirds 2-3 zone - I'm not a basketball coach here, but generally in order to break down a zone you have to move through it, not just pass around the perimeter.
The Jays also allowed ISU to shoot 49.2 percent from the field, and the score would have been more lopsided if they had not gone 18-for-21 from the line (including 9-10 by McDermott in the first half, a large chunk of his points on the night).
All that said, let's not forget how newfound hero John Wilkins almost ruined this for the Birds. His move to the starting lineup has not led to a dramatic uptick in his offensive production, but coach Dan Muller has credited a new effort and understanding of his defensive system for the resurgence. A resurgence (wins in six of their last seven) that has coincided exactly with Wilkins' move to the lineup.
On the last possession of the game, Illinois State beat the press by eventually getting the ball across midcourt to Wilkins, who saw the clock running down, dribbled, stopped, and then dribbled again. Yikes. This gave Creighton one last attempt at a miracle shot with a second left on the clock.
Sure, it was a one-in-a-million shot, but if Wilkins does anything else once he picks up his dribble - he literally could have just stood there with the ball for a second, or thrown it up in the air - that becomes a zero percent chance. One can never be too careful.
This loss mow drops Creighton into a three-way tie for first place with Indiana State and Wichita State, while Illinois State finds themselves back in a muddled middle of the conference after a truly awful start. Who’s going to be able to finish strongest with six games left?