You never want the referees to decide a close game.
With nine minutes to go in a two-point game, Creighton's Grant Gibbs was called for a Flagrant 1 foul. He had been rolling the ball over his head to begin his crossover dribble. One of his elbows knocked into the head of Wichita State's Tekele Cotton and sent him to the floor.
What looked like a basketball play -- something that would be ignored -- now gave Wichita State two free throws and the ball.
Cotton hit both free ones.
Then on the possession, Demetric Williams got away with a clear push as the shot clock was winding down. Instead Jahenns Manigat was called for the block, his fourth foul. The Shockers failed to capitalize, but that changed the nature of the personnel on the floor -- an even more important difference in such a close game. He would foul out minutes later stripping the Bluejays of their depth at guard in the final minutes.
And That elbow? It looks for all purposes like the phantom punch that knocked out the Jays. It killed the momentum that Creighton had been building as they came back from a seven-point deficit.
Doug McDermott tried what he could to overcome the swing. The crowd roaring in his face every time he touched the ball, he hit one shot after another: three, fade away, drive.
Oh wait, that drive... it was called a travel. Has anyone actually ever seen McDermott travel? Yeah, neither have I. Shocking? Yeah, I went there.
No matter what McDermott did, it wasn't enough as for a little less than four minutes Williams came alive for Wichita. He of the push no-call started to run the Shocker offense through him, for better or worse (we have said before how bad an idea this is). At this point in the game, it was for better though.
The cushion he gave was enough for Wichita State to upset Creighton, 67-64.
Forget the refs for a moment. Over the course of the season, this call is going to come back to Creighton, and a loss here isn't going to destroy any hope of making the NCAA Tournament. The Jays are in. The Shockers should be in already too.
What we should be thinking about is how Wichita State is doing this. This is another example of them just pressing and pushing early in the game. The first five minutes of this one were menacing. The Shockers just took it too the Jays.
And here is the weird part about that: the Shockers don't like to play up tempo. Their game focuses around controlling the tempo and winning with defense. They need the game to slow down.
But this is the second game I have watched Wichita during the season and this is the second time they have pushed it early in order to establish a cushion. They did it against Illinois State when I wasn't watching, so I would consider that a pattern.
Now imagine trying to come back against that punishing defense. That will wear a team down.
Now imagine trying to come back against that defense when your players are continuously getting in foul trouble. That just isn't possible.
You may have watched Ethan Wragge get two shots in the final 30 seconds with a chance to tie and extend this game a little longer. By that point, I am impressed he had the legs left to hit the rim, let alone make it.
This was an impressive win by the Shockers. Keep in mind that this isn't a "tournament-maker" for Wichita State. This is seeding more than anything as both of these teams should have no trouble getting an invite in March.
That won't be how the national media will spin this. They will be incorrect.
Carl Hall led the way for Wichita with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Malcolm Armstead had 15 points and Cleanthony Early added 13.
McDermott led the Jays as usual with 25 points. Outside of his shooting though, it was only Grant Gibbs for Creighton with 14 points. Gregory Echenique had nine points and 13 boards, but the Jays had a hard time getting him into the offense. Even more concerning should be that the big man ran up and down the floor holding his left wrist over the final two minutes of the game. Something isn't right there; he was clearly in pain.
The win pushes Wichita State into first place in the Valley, now holding the tie break over Creighton. No, I didn't see this coming.