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Saturday, February 11, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Wichita St. 89, Creighton 68

By Jason King


OMAHA, Neb. -- Observations from Wichita State's 89-68 victory over Creighton Saturday at the CenturyLink Center:

Overview: Wichita State took a major step toward winning its first regular-season Missouri Valley Conference title since 2006 by defeating Creighton 89-68 Saturday at CenturyLink Center in Omaha. Joe Ragland scored 24 points in the victory and Ben Smith added 22 for the Shockers, who avenged a Dec. 31 home loss to the Bluejays.

With a 13-2 league record, Greg Marshall's squad is two games ahead of Creighton (11-4) in the league standings. The No. 17 Bluejays have now lost three straight games and are in danger of falling out of the top 25 poll. Unranked Wichita State, meanwhile, appears more than deserving of catapulting into the rankings. The Shockers have won 12 of their past 13 games.

Wichita State shot 58 percent from the field. The Shockers made eight of their 16 shots from beyond the 3-point arc and connected on all 17 of their foul shots.

Notable: The Shockers won despite a minimal contribution from leading scorer Garrett Stutz. A 7-foot senior, Stutz entered the game averaging 21.8 points in his previous five contests. But he scored just eight Saturday because of foul trouble. The Shockers may have actually been better with Stutz on the bench because they were able to increase the tempo and play faster.

Doug McDermott, a first-team All-America candidate, finished with 13 points. Late in the first half McDermott was involved in a heated exchange with his father, Bluejays coach Greg McDermott, as he walked toward the Creighton bench during a timeout. There appeared to be contact between the father and son as Greg yelled at Doug.

What the win means for Wichita State: This isn't the Shockers' first big win of the season. They pasted UNLV 89-70 less than two weeks after the Runnin' Rebels upset North Carolina. But for Wichita State to turn in this kind of performance in one of the conference's toughest road environments says a ton about its mental toughness and its focus. The fact that the Shockers start four seniors certainly helps -- and so does their depth. This is not a team you want to play in the NCAA tournament.

What the loss means for Creighton: The Bluejays entered February with an 11-game win streak and all the confidence in the world. Now the Bluejays may not even make the NCAA tournament. Saturday was Creighton's third straight loss, and unless things change quickly, another defeat may come next weekend against red-hot Long Beach State. The 49ers have played at Pittsburgh, Kansas, Louisville and North Carolina. They certainly won't be intimidated by the atmosphere they'll face in Omaha. A victory in that game is a must for the Bluejays.

Up next: Creighton plays at Southern Illinois Tuesday. Wichita State hosts Missouri State Wednesday.