|Redbirds look to upset Jays|
|Written by Todd Marver, Senior Staff|
|Thursday, 07 February 2013 18:16|
Midnight Madness occurs at universities across the country every year on the first day of men’s basketball practice in mid-October with team activities taking place until the late hours of the night. Illinois State (14-10) will experience its own version of Midnight Madness in a 9 p.m. game on ESPN2 against No. 16 Creighton (20-4) Saturday in Omaha, Neb. The contest versus the Bluejays marks the latest start time for the Redbirds this season.
ISU’s last victory over a ranked team came on March 3, 2012, beating Wichita State in the MVC tournament semifinals. The Redbirds are 8-46 against ranked teams all-time.
The first matchup this season between ISU and CU went the Bluejays’ way, 79-72. CU was 3-0 against the ’Birds last season including an 83-79 overtime win in the MVC tournament championship game, and the ’Jays have won six straight games overall against ISU.
While the Bluejays are led by preseason all-American and 2011-12 Missouri Valley Conference player of the year junior forward Doug McDermott (23.3 points per game), they also return three other starters from last season’s Arch Madness championship team picked to finish first this season by the Valley preseason poll.
Senior center Gregory Echenique (Preseason MVC Honorable Mention;
2011-12 MVC Defensive Player of the Year), senior guard Grant Gibbs
(2011-12 MVC All-Newcomer Team) and junior guard Jahenns Manigat round
out the four returning starters from last season. Creighton has the
highest field-goal percentage in Division I this season at 52 percent.
“I think you have to mix it up defensively with a team that scores
that well,” Muller said. “I mean they’re leading the country in
three-point percentage, two-point percentage and probably 17 other
offensive categories. If you give them a steady diet, it can be tough
whether it be your ball screen coverage, your post coverage, your
matchups or your defense.”
After an 0-6 start in conference play, the Redbirds have won five
out of their last six games in their journey to attempt to avoid a
Thursday play-in game in Saint Louis, Mo., at the Missouri Valley
Conference tournament March 7-10.
The Redbirds must finish in the top-six in the conference standings
to stay out of Thursday, and they are currently tied for seventh in
conference with Drake and Missouri State at a 5-7 mark. The 94-86
comeback victory at Drake after being 17 points down in Des Moines, Iowa
propelled them into the seventh-place tie with the Bulldogs and Bears.
“I think our guys are in a good rhythm,” Muller said. “I’m hoping
we go into Saturday and continue to play free offensively with a huge
sense of urgency defensively. We’re going to have to.”
The Bluejays are perched on the opposite side of the standings from
the Redbirds in first-place at 9-3, one game ahead of second-place
Wichita State and Indiana State. After a season-worst 19-point loss,
76-57 to Indiana State in Terre Haute, Ind., heading into its matchup
with ISU, CU looks to avoid its second two-game losing streak of
conference play. The ’Jays previously fell in back-to-back MVC games
against Wichita State and Drake.
“You never know the team’s psyche unless you are in the locker room, and Creighton is certainly dangerous no matter what,” Muller said. “Similar to Drake, they shoot the heck out of it. I’m sure they’ll be ready to play.”