• Video: Creighton coach Dana Altman speaks after the Jays' win over Indiana State on Tuesday:
* * *
Creighton's win Tuesday over Indiana State wasn't pretty but at this point, aesthetics rank low on the Bluejays' priority list.
Kenny Lawson scored 11 of his 17 points in the second half to push Creighton to a 65-52 win over the Sycamores. An announced crowd of 15,768 at Qwest Center Omaha saw the Bluejays pick up the pace in the final 20 minutes to secure a win that helps flush away the sour taste left by their performance three days earlier at Missouri State.
“We know we did wrong, and that's the kind of game we don't want to think about,'' Lawson said, referring to Saturday's 70-52 loss in Springfield. “We knew we had to move on, and that's what we did.
“We learned from it and put it behind us. We worked hard in practice, and it paid off today. Hopefully, it can carry over into our next couple of practices and our next game.''
That comes Saturday, when the Bluejays play host to Illinois State in a Missouri Valley Conference game that will provide the winner with an inside track to the No. 3 seed in next month's league tournament.
The teams are used to playing for higher stakes when the calendar hits mid-February. This time around, the Bluejays are struggling to keep their heads above water as Tuesday's win left them 13-12 and 8-6 in the Valley.
That beats the alternative had they not been able to gear up in the second half to shake the undermanned Sycamores. Injuries have taken three starters out of coach Kevin McKenna's lineup and left him with eight players in uniform.
That was almost enough to pull off an upset Saturday against Wichita State.
“I thought we played with a little less fire than we did the other night,'' said McKenna, the former Creighton player and assistant. “They outworked us, the outhustled us and they beat us to a lot of loose balls.
“Our zone, which we don't like to play but we have to, didn't have a lot of resistance. Let a team have 21 assists to five turnovers, and you're getting picked apart.''
Although they never led, the Sycamores hung with Creighton for the first 20 minutes mainly because the Bluejays shot the ball only slightly worse than Indiana State did in the first half. The Bluejays made 11 of 31 (35.5 percent) shots from the field, including 5 of 19 (26.3 percent) from 3-point range, in taking a 31-24 halftime lead.
The Sycamores shot 33.3 percent (7 of 21) as both teams seemed stuck in quicksand the opening 20 minutes.
“It was kind of a slow pace,'' Creighton forward Justin Carter said.
The Bluejays picked it up to start the second half, going on a 13-4 spurt that featured seven points by Lawson and 3-point baskets by Darryl Ashford and Ethan Wragge. Lawson's first two baskets of the half were dunks, the first of which coming after he outwrestled a couple of Sycamores for the rebound of his missed shot.
Lawson went on to make his final three shots to finish 7 of 11 from the field. He also grabbed 10 rebounds in recording his fourth double-double of the season and second against Indiana State. The 6-foot-9 junior also blocked four shots.
“When he's active like that,'' Creighton coach Dana Altman said, “we're a much better team.''
Creighton eventually built its lead to 20 points when Wragge buried a 3-pointer with 10:24 to play, and the Bluejays were able to coast in from there.
Wragge finished with nine points, while Carter chipped in eight points, six rebounds and five assists. Ashford also had five assists as Creighton finished with 21 on 25 baskets. The Bluejays also had a season-low five turnovers.
“I thought our wings in particular did a good job of making shots,'' Altman said. “Justin and Darryl and Kaleb (Korver) combined for 13 assists. I thought they did an outstanding job.
“But we were fortunate. Indiana State is really undermanned, and any time you lose players it makes it tough. They did such an outstanding job the other night against Wichita State that it probably took a little out of them.''
The Sycamores got 15 points from Carl Richard and 13 from Rashad Reed but had difficulty matching Creighton's inside combination of Lawson and Wayne Runnels, who added seven points.
“Our guys tried, but where we are right now, we pretty much need eight guys to play well, especially on the road,'' McKenna said. “We didn't get all eight playing well. We played tentative and back on our heels.
“They were the more aggressive team, and we struggled for everything that we got.''
Contact the writer:
* * *
• Video: Highlights from Creighton's 65-52 win over Indiana State on Tuesday: