OMAHA, Neb. — Starting Saturday’s Missouri Valley Conference basketball game at the later-than-usual time of 9:05 p.m. doesn’t concern Illinois State’s Tyler Brown at all.
“I love it,” said the senior guard. “Sleep is my best friend.”
Brown and his teammates know their defense better be wide awake as 16th-ranked and Valley-leader Creighton figures to be a little ticked off for the national broadcast on ESPN2.
The Bluejays (20-4, 9-3 MVC) are coming off their worse loss of the season, a 76-57 setback at Indiana State on Wednesday. Creighton, which leads the Valley by a game over Indiana State and Wichita State with six games left, was held to a season-low offensive output as National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott scored eight points on 3-of-10 field goal shooting.
“You try to learn from it,” said Creighton coach Greg McDermott, Doug’s father, before practice Friday. “You try to figure out what happened and try to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
Meanwhile, ISU (14-10, 5-7) is finally starting to look like the team that was picked to finish second in the Valley preseason poll behind the Bluejays.
The Redbirds have won five of their last six, including a 94-86 comeback victory at Drake Wednesday in which ISU didn’t lead until there was 1:45 left. The Redbirds are in an eighth-place Valley tie with Drake and Missouri State, but only one game behind Bradley, Evansville and Northern Iowa in fifth.
ISU coach Dan Muller is unsure whether the Bluejays’ loss to Indiana State makes it more difficult on the Redbirds or not.
“You just never know the team’s psyche unless you’re in the locker room. They’re certainly dangerous no matter what,” said Muller. “Similar to Drake they shoot the heck out of it. I can tell you as a coach sometimes you don’t know, either, until game day. I’m sure they’ll be ready to play.”
Only one player on the ISU roster has tasted victory against the Bluejays. Senior Jackie Carmichael was a freshman when ISU downed Creighton, 67-63, at the CenturyLink Center in 2010.
The Bluejays have beaten ISU six straight times, including 79-72 earlier this season at Redbird Arena.
Carmichael was “a little surprised” by Creighton’s loss to Indiana State.
“It gives us a little extra motivation because we definitely know they’ll want some payback against somebody,” he said.
The Redbirds also know they can’t afford another defensive first half like they did against Drake or there will be no chance to rally. The Bulldogs made nine 3-pointers en route to a 51-40 lead.
Creighton, which is 13th in the country with a 78-point scoring average, has even more firepower than Drake. ISU swarmed McDermott, the nation’s second-leading scorer with a 23.3 average, every time he touched the ball in the post last month. The Redbirds essentially backed off senior guard Grant Gibbs and dared him to shoot.
Gibbs accepted. He sank two 3-pointers and scored 16 points, one more than McDermott. Muller said the odds are “slim to none” that ISU will use that same strategy.
“You have to mix it up (defensively) with a team that scores that well,” said Muller. “If you give them a steady diet it’s tough — whether you switch up ball-screen coverage or post coverage or matchups. Gibbs, coming into our game, had three 3s the entire year. Right now he is shooting 50 percent from 3 in conference. We’ll do some things differently.”