ST. LOUIS — Creighton's ability to put the brakes on Indiana State's Jake Odum on Saturday put the Bluejays on a fast track to a lopsided victory.
That was the opposite of what happened a month ago, when Odum took control from the start and led his team to a 19-point home win. The junior guard scored 22 points that night, including eight from the free-throw line.
The Bluejays limited him to one basket and three free throws on Saturday in a 64-43 victory that earned them a spot in Sunday's championship game against Wichita State.
“We kept him out of the paint,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “When he gets in the paint and he's got room to make decisions and start spraying it all over, you're asking for it.”
McDermott praised sophomore guard Austin Chatman for setting the defensive tone against Odum. Chatman is the Bluejays' best on-ball perimeter defender.
“I thought Austin did a good job of staying underneath him and not going for his shot fakes,” McDermott said. “Jake is so crafty with the fakes. You have to stay on your feet and keep your feet moving on him.”
Odum came into the semifinal game having shot 224 free-throw attempts, making 172. He got to the line only three times against the Bluejays.
“We got caught up playing too fast when we faced him the last time,” Chatman said. “We knew we had to stick to the game plan better than when we played them there. We did a good job of keeping him out of the lane and off the line today.”
Quick pace backfires on ISU
Indiana State fell behind by 12 points five minutes into the game. The Sycamores managed to get back within seven points before Creighton hit them with an 18-0 run that put them into panic mode.
“We got a little out of character because everything was going in for them,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. “You just have to have some patience and work the ball better. Our plan going in was that after (they had) a make, we wanted to get at least two ball reversals.
“As you saw in the first half, that didn't happen very much.”
The Bluejays got the Sycamores to speed up their offense in an attempt to keep up. Instead, the quicker pace backfired on Indiana State.
“When we followed the game plan this year, we beat a lot of teams,” Odum said. “When we kind of strayed off and did our own thing and didn't follow what the coaches had for us, we got whooped.”
Baker heating up for WSU
Creighton posted a 12-point win over Wichita State on March 2 to earn the regular-season championship. To win the tournament title, the Bluejays will need to contend with a player that could only watch when the teams played twice this season.
Guard Ron Baker missed 21 games with a stress fracture in his foot. He returned for the Shockers' two tournament games, scoring 15 points in Friday night's win over Missouri State and getting seven in the semifinal win over Illinois State.
A starter in the season's first 10 games, Baker gives the Shockers another perimeter scoring threat while deepening a rotation that already ranked as one of the league's deepest.
“I think now people see what Ron Baker is capable of doing,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “He's a really good player, and he does everything fairly well, if not really good.”
The Shockers lost Baker about the same time forward Carl Hall broke his thumb and forward Evan Wessel broke a finger on his shooting hand. Wessel will not return this season, taking a medical hardship. Hall missed about a month before returning to the lineup.
“We haven't been healthy since the eighth game of the season,” Marshall said.
Another chance for Hall
Creighton shot 70 percent from the field in putting up 91 points on the league's best defensive team eight days ago. Creighton star Doug McDermott scored 41 points, making 15 of 18 shots from the field.
A lot of those points came with Hall guarding McDermott.
“I have to come ready to play, man,” Hall said when asked about getting another shot at McDermott and Creighton. “I have to do the best job I can on him and make it difficult for him. I can't give him angles so the guards won't have to help as much.
“I'm going to just try to make it hard for him and give him different looks every time.”
Bits and pieces
>> Doug McDermott has been named one of 15 finalists for the Wooden national player of the year award. The winner will be announced at the Final Four.
>> Creighton will be trying to win its 12th tournament title, while Wichita State has claimed the championship in 1985 and 1987 when the tournament was played at campus sites.
>> Creighton is 8-0 in the championship game when it's been played in St. Louis and is 11-1 overall when it reaches the title game.
>> The Bluejays will be trying to become the 14th top-seeded team to win the tournament in 37 seasons. A Wichita State win would mark the 15th time the No. 2 seed has claimed the tournament title.
>> A Creighton win would be the Bluejays' 27th of the season. The Bluejays have won as many as 27 games three times previously, including last season when they tied the program record with 29 victories.
— Steven Pivovar