Grant Gibbs delivered the shot of the game Saturday in Creighton’s 91-79 championship victory over Wichita State.
It came with about 7½ minutes to play with the shot clock nearing zero. Teammate Austin Chatman zipped a high, cross-court pass that Gibbs had to leap high in the air to catch. In almost the same motion, as he was falling out of bounds, he launched a shot toward the basket.
The 25-footer swished through the net, expanding the Bluejays’ lead to 15 points and perhaps signaling to the Shockers that this wasn’t going to be a day when they left the CenturyLink Center with a championship.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall just shook his head when Gibbs’ shot dropped.
“When those things happen, you know it’s not your day,” he said. “It was just an incredible shot.”
Creighton had missed plenty of much better shots during a stretch that saw the Bluejays lose six of 11 games.
“In this game, it takes a little luck,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “They missed a couple of shots they normally make, and we throw in a prayer.
“In that scenario, that was a big basket.”
Gibbs did his best to keep a straight face when asked about the shot after the game.
“I did not think it was going in, but it snuck in there,” he said. “Credit a great pass.”
Hometown favorite Jones honored
Saturday’s scenario — playing your rival for a championship in the final game of the season — had the 18,613 fans at the CenturyLink juiced long before the game started.
Then Josh Jones made an appearance.
Jones, the Bluejays’ senior from Omaha Central, hadn’t been in uniform since Dec. 6, when he suffered a heart episode before the game against Nebraska that forced him to quit basketball.
He suited up again Saturday, making one final appearance when the Bluejays returned to the court shortly before the game for final warmups. The arena went wild when Jones came through the tunnel and ran through some layup drills.
The crowd also went bonkers when Jones was introduced before the game as an honorary starter.
“When I ran out with the team, I felt like I was back,” Jones told The World-Herald. “I liked the fact that I surprised everyone out of the locker room.
“I wanted to show the world that adversity is nothing more than motivation. I sincerely loved being the spark to the team. It was fun.”
Whether Saturday’s game will be the last regular-season game between the Shockers and Bluejays remains to be seen. Creighton might face a decision to leave the Valley, as early as next season, if it receives an invitation to join a new league being formed by seven Catholic schools departing the Big East.
Wichita State’s Marshall had ended his postgame press conference but then offered an unsolicited final comment. “I’ll go on record if they do leave the Valley that we should continue our series.”
McDermott sidestepped a question about Marshall’s comment.
“I don’t have any comment on that because you guys have a better idea of what’s going on with that other deal than I do,” he said. “I’m not on the need-to-know list on that deal. We’ll deal with that if it ever happens.”
Bits and pieces
>> Creighton paid tribute to Jones, Gibbs, Echenique, Taylor Stormberg and Joe Kelling as well as senior managers Michael Vandevoort and Colin Brittan in Senior Day ceremonies after the game.
>> The win snapped a two-game skid against the Shockers at home and left the Bluejays 36-14 in their last 50 meetings with Wichita State.
>> Greg McDermott notched his 225th Division I win as a coach.
>> Doug McDermott became the first Creighton player to score more than 700 points in multiple seasons and the first Valley player to accomplish that since Bradley’s Hersey Hawkins from 1986-88.
>> The win was Creighton’s 53rd over the past two seasons. That’s a school record over a two-year span.