Some Creighton fans might roll their eyes when they hear coach Greg McDermott call Tuesday's game against Drake “really scary.”
After all, the Bulldogs bring a 6-8 record into the 7:05 p.m. meeting with the nation's No. 13 team at the CenturyLink Center. They are winless in their first three Missouri Valley games, one of the losses coming to a Missouri State team that had not beaten a Division I team before conference play.
McDermott acknowledges that Drake is struggling at this point but is quick to point out that could change quickly if the Bulldogs can get their shooting touches out of the deep freeze.
“The reality of it is that three games ago, Drake was a better 3-point shooting team that we are,” McDermott said. “And we're a pretty good 3-point shooting team.”
The best in the country when it comes to 3-point baskets per game. Creighton is averaging 9.5 baskets from beyond the arc, and is No. 2 nationally in 3-point field-goal percentage at .437.
Drake had been among the national leaders in both statistical categories prior to the start of Valley play, averaging 9.5 3-point baskets per game while shooting 43.5 percent from beyond the arc.
In their three conference losses, the Bulldogs are shooting 24.6 percent from 3-point range, making 18 of 73 attempts. Meanwhile, Creighton's 3-0 start has been fueled by a 36-of-71 (50.7 percent) hot streak from beyond the arc.
“Drake has just had three games where it has not made shots,” McDermott said. “It's the same guys that made those shots in the first 11 games, and that's what we're prepared to see tomorrow night.”
Drake's six primary 3-point shooters — Ben Simons, Chris Hines, Richard Carter, Joey King, Micah Mason and Gary Ricks — shot 45.3 percent from beyond the arc in nonconference play. In the three conference games, they are missing 3 of every 4 shots from 3-point range.
Mason, who missed Saturday's loss to Missouri State with the flu, is 4 of 8 on 3-point shots but had been shooting 60.9 percent through the first 11 games. Simons is 6 of 20 from beyond the arc in the last three games, Hines 4 of 16, King 3 of 13, Ricks 1 of 6 and Carter 0 of 6.
“There has been some hesitation on some shots when guys are open,” Drake coach Mark Phelps said. “That's led us to take some not-so-great shots. And in our first two (conference) games, we turned the ball over.
“That throws a big kink into your offense when you have 18 and 19 turnovers. But we're still the same good-shooting, good-passing, highly-skilled offensive team that we were earlier in the season, and it's just a matter of time before we get back to that team. Hopefully, it starts tomorrow night.”
Creighton's players are well aware of what could happen if the Bulldogs heat up in Omaha.
“They were playing real well early in the year,” guard Grant Gibbs said. “If they're shooting the ball, they're capable of beating anybody.”
Drake's best win of the season came at Nevada, and it threw scares into California and Xavier at a November tournament in Anaheim, Calif.
Drake had a nine-point lead with seven minutes to play before California rallied for a 73-70 win. Xavier beat the Bulldogs 74-70 three days later.
“This is a good basketball team that has just hit a tough stretch,” McDermott said. “That happens to all of us. They're going to catch fire, but we just hope it's not tomorrow night.”
Jays fans buy 4,000 tickets to MVC tourney
St. Louis figures to be more blue than usual during this year's Missouri Valley basketball tournament.
Creighton fans already have purchased 4,000 all-session tickets for the March 7 through 10 tournament at the Scottrade Center. That easily exceeds the record 2,575 tickets Creighton fans purchased last year.
The nine other league schools had sold a combined total of 2,929 by Jan. 1, the Valley office announced Monday.
Creighton's total could grow in the coming weeks as schools will continue to sell the all-session tickets.
A year ago, the Valley sold 5,039 all-session tickets by Jan. 1. This year's sales by Jan. 1 are the second-largest, ranking behind the 7,209 tickets sold in 2008.
Jays move up in AP rankings
Creighton moved up three spots to 13th in this week's Associated Press rankings while maintaining its No. 11 rating in the USA Today coaches poll.
The Bluejays (14-1) had been 16th in the past two AP polls but used wins over Illinois State and Indiana State to gain their second-highest AP ranking this season. The Bluejays had been No. 11 in the Nov. 26 poll but dipped after suffering their only loss of the season to Boise State.
Creighton also had been ranked No. 11 in the coaches poll on Nov. 26, and moved back into that spot last week.
In other Monday developments:
>> ESPN analyst Dick Vitale named Creighton forward Doug McDermott his midseason player of the year. “There are a number of viable candidates but I like the junior forward,” Vitale wrote on ESPN.com. “The versatile, multitalented Bluejay is all about winning and very unselfish. His presence on the court forces defenses to adjust and creates angles for his teammates.”
>> Creighton checked in at No. 13 in the first NCAA RPI rankings.
>> The Bluejays rank in the top 10 nationally in six statistical categories: 3-point baskets per game (first, 9.5), 3-point field-goal percentage (second, .437), field-goal percentage (fifth, .512), winning percentage (sixth, .933), assist-to-turnover ratio (sixth, 1.53-to-1) and assists per game (ninth, 17.8). Creighton also is 18th in scoring (79.5), 19th in scoring margin (plus 17.1) and 21st in free-throw percentage (.757).
>> Grant Gibbs ranks second nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (5.06-to-1) and 22nd in assists per game (6.06), while McDermott is third in scoring (23.1 average), 38th in free-throw percentage (.871) and 49th in field-goal percentage (.543). Center Gregory Echenique is 63rd in double-doubles (four) and 85th in blocked shots (1.73 per game).
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