Creighton-Missouri St. Preview
By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- Thanks in part to a collectively unselfish attitude, Creighton is off to its best start in 10 seasons.
Looking to remain undefeated in the Missouri Valley Conference, the No. 13 Bluejays could need another strong team effort as they try for a 10th straight victory against host Missouri State on Friday night.
Though preseason All-American Doug McDermott (22.6 points per game) ranks among the national scoring leaders, senior Gregory Echenique (10.8 ppg) is the only other Creighton player averaging in double figures. Six other Bluejays average between 5.6 and 9.8 points, while eight are playing at least 15 minutes per contest.
Six players have made at least 10 3-pointers for a squad that is shooting a Division I-best 44.9 percent from beyond the arc. Creighton (15-1, 4-0) also ranks among the best in the country averaging 18.4 assists and has three players with at least 2.2 per contest.
Those are key reasons the Bluejays are off to the school's best start since the 2002-03 team started 16-1, and tied with No. 23 Wichita State atop the MVC standings. Creighton also is trying to win 10 straight for a second consecutive season.
"We've got a bunch of unselfish guys who don't care about their individual stats and just want us to come out ahead at the end of the game," starting guard Jahenns Manigat said.
Junior Ethan Wragge went 6 of 9 from 3-point range and matched a career high with 22 points as 12 Bluejays scored and none played more than 28 minutes in Tuesday's 91-61 home rout of Drake. Creighton shot 64.2 percent, including a season-best 16 of 27 (59.3) from 3, and recorded 28 assists.
"Sometimes you have nights like this," coach Greg McDermott said. "We took a team that had been struggling some and threw the first punch. That was our goal coming into the game."
That was made possible by Wragge (9.8 ppg), Creighton's top reserve who is 15 of 24 (62.5 percent) from beyond the arc while scoring at least 18 points in two of the last three games.
"I would say the last couple games I've gotten my feel back," said Wragge, who has been bothered by an arm injury. "I'm confident."
With Wragge's hot shooting and Creighton's overall balance, Missouri State (5-11, 3-1) expects to be in for a tough challenge despite winning three of four to open conference play following an eight-game skid.
"I don't know if there is ever a good time to play Creighton," Missouri State coach Paul Lusk said. "They are awfully talented. They outsize us in a lot of areas. We're going to have to grind it out."
Echenique had 16 points and Doug McDermott added 15 as the Bluejays shot 55.6 percent and held the Bears to 39.1 to snap a six-game series skid with a 66-65 road win last season.
The Bluejays will try to contain Missouri State guard Anthony Downing (14.6 ppg), who averaged 20.0 points on 16-of-25 shooting in two games against them last season. The senior has scored 24 points and shot 7 of 10 in each of the Bears' last two victories over Drake and Illinois State.
Coming off Tuesday's 62-55 win over the Redbirds, the Bears are in position to win three straight at home for the first time since Dec. 17-31, 2011.
Updated January 10, 2013