The matchup between the Creighton women’s basketball team and current Missouri Valley Conference front-runner Wichita State might not have been a make-or-break game for the Bluejays in their quest for a regular-season league title.
But second-place Creighton would be staring at a three-game deficit with five conference games left with another loss to the Shockers, who had beaten the Bluejays handily 67-45 four weeks ago in Wichita.
Creighton avenged that loss to inch within a game of the Valley lead by dealing Wichita State its second loss in three games with a 56-46 win in front of a Sokol Arena crowd of 1,378.
Alexis Akin-Otiko, a sophomore out of Bellevue West, led the Bluejays with a season-high 13 points, including nine in a crucial 5:05 stretch of the second half to fend off a late Shocker assault. Marissa Janning added 12 points.
Creighton had Wichita State on the ropes several times, but went through scoring droughts that let the Shockers back into the game.
Bluejays coach Jim Flanery said he was puzzled by the way his team’s offense disappeared at times.
“We were real spurty on offense,” Flanery said. “I thought we played for four or five minutes and did a good job of taking care of the ball, and then three possessions in a row we would throw it away.”
Wichita State, which makes its living off forcing turnovers — averaging 19 per game — scored 23 points off CU’s 22 turnovers last month.
And the Shockers were at it again, pressuring the Bluejays into 22 giveaways and scoring 26 points off them.
CU’s McKenzie Fujan, who scored eight points, said the turnovers were a constant battle.
“They like to capitalize off our turnovers, and we said in the huddle that they were getting a lot of energy off our turnovers, so we had to get that in check and figure it out,” Fujan said. “I thought we did good, though.”
Creighton stormed to an 11-4 lead six minutes into the game by hitting five of its first six shots.
But the Bluejays were unable to sustain the momentum, missing seven of their next eight attempts as Wichita State used an 11-2 surge to take a 15-13 lead on Michaela Dapprich’s layup.
Creighton trailed 21-17 with 4:29 left in the first half after a 3-pointer by Jessica Diamond, but the Bluejays closed the half with a 12-4 run to take a 29-25 lead to the locker room.
Alyssa Kamphaus and Akin-Otiko combined for six points in the post while Carli Tritz and Janning bookended the burst with a 3-pointer apiece.
The Bluejays came out of halftime with another 12-4 run to build a 41-29 advantage as Janning, Fujan and Jordan Garrison each hit 3-pointers.
But the Shockers used a 9-0 run in the next 5:53 to cut their deficit to 41-38.
Creighton began to look inside on its ensuing possessions as Akin-Otiko started to heat up. Sarah Nelson added a bucket from close range to push the lead to 50-40 with 5:24 remaining.
“I think once (Akin-Otiko) hit the first one, I think our players were comfortable throwing her the second one,” Flanery said. “She got confident and made some great plays.”
Creighton hits the road next week for games at Northern Iowa on Thursday and Bradley on Saturday before returning home March 3 to host Drake.