NORMAL -- For the first 10 minutes Wednesday night, Illinois State's basketball team was having what might be called an offensive explosion at Redbird Arena.
Then the Redbirds settled back into what is fast becoming the norm.
ISU shot 35.8 percent from the field in the Missouri Valley Conference opener against Creighton, while junior guard Antoine Young tied his career high with 21 points to lead the Bluejays to a 64-53 victory over the Redbirds before a crowd of 6,158.
Not even the lively music provided by former ISU player Brett Gillan and his cover band, "Brushfire," could wake up the cold-shooting Redbirds.
"Something I'm obviously feeling and have not talked about, but it's pretty apparent at this time, is that we're a team that has trouble scoring. We just are," said ISU coach Tim Jankovich. "We haven't been able to score easily or freely in a long time."
ISU (8-4) has not scored more than 65 points in any of its last eight games, averaging 58.1 points in that stretch. That doesn't bode well heading into Saturday's 7:05 p.m. game at Missouri State, one of the Valley favorites.
The Redbirds made 7-of-10 shots in taking a 20-17 lead against Creighton (9-4). But ISU was able to sink only 12-of-43 attempts the rest of the game as the Bluejays won at Redbird Arena for the first time since 2005.
ISU would have been hard pressed to hit 50 without Anthony Cousin (12 points) and Blake Mishler (10) coming off the bench and providing a much-needed spark. The starters combined to go 7-of-27 shooting with 22 points.
"We didn't return anyone who carried a major scoring role last year," said Mishler. "Guys are trying settle into that. We might have a few dry patches, but we should get it together."
Creighton used a 13-2 run to end the first half to take a 38-29 lead as ISU went the final 5:37 without a basket.
The Redbirds cut a 13-point deficit to 46-42 on Cousin's 3-pointer with 11:53 left. But Jason Jones' 3-pointer started a 9-2 Bluejay run that seemed to take all the steam out of ISU, which had only three more baskets the rest of the game.
"In the past we've learned from our losses. I guess we have to learn from this," said Cousin. "We can't hang our heads down."
Creighton shot 50 percent from the field (22 off 44) and unleashed a future star in 6-9, 270-pound sophomore Gregory Echenique. The Rutgers transfer, playing in his fourth game since becoming eligible, bulled his way for 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting with seven rebounds and two blocks.
"He's going to be bad news for a lot of us in the league for a long time," said Jankovich. "He's such a big force ... he's a physical presence you don't see that often anywhere, particularly in this league."
ISU forward Jackie Carmichael was a force early, scoring all eight of his points in the first six minutes. He turned his left ankle, which bothered him in the preseason, at the 9:24 mark of the first half and wasn't a factor after that.
"The start of the game we did not defend with much intensity and were back on our heels," said first-year Creighton coach Greg McDermott. "We were fortunate to be down only 20-17. After that I felt the rest of the game we defended very well and made them take shots we wanted them to take."
Redbird Report Card
FRONT COURT – C: Blake Mishler came off the bench and held his own, but starters weren’t effective in last 25 minutes of game.
BACKCOURT – D+: Creighton’s Antoine Young (21 points) controlled the game, while ISU’s perimeter woes continued.
BENCH – B: Mishler and Anthony Cousin (12 points) were able to keep ISU within striking distance as subs outscored starters, 31-22.
OVERALL – C—: ISU needs someone to come forward and produce offensively on consistent basis or it’s going to be a very long season.