NCAA Talk

No. 16 Creighton slips by Illinois State

974635.png

No. 16 Creighton slips by Illinois State

NORMAL -- Dan Muller never lost to Creighton during his playing days at ISU, but he was unable to keep that trend going as a coach Wednesday night as the Redbirds fell to No. 16 Creighton, 79-72, in front of a lively crowd at Redbird Arena.

"Disappointed in the result," said Muller, who is in his first year as ISU's head coach. "Our guys played very hard. They wanted to win. They competed at a high level. We had some guys who didn't play great, but they played hard and I'm happy with their effort.

"Creighton is a very good team. We just didn't make enough plays to beat a very good team."

Reigning Valley Player of the Year Doug McDermott was battling strep throat struggled to get going for Creighton, scoring just four points in the first half as Glenbard East product Johnny Hill and Chicago native Zeke Upshaw played solid defense on one of the top scorers in the nation.
"Fabulous win for us," Creighton head coach Greg McDermott, Doug's father, said. "I don't think many teams are going to come in here and win."

Ethan Wragge (18 points on 6-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc) and Grant Gibbs (14 points) picked up the slack for McDermott in the opening period as Creighton built a 12-point lead.

"They really hurt us in the first half with Gibbs making some shots he hasn't made," Muller said. "Wragge, we knew he could shoot. We talked about it, we just had some guys go a little brain-dead to give him some shot attempts, which was disappointing.

"But our zone was good. They shot 50 percent in the second half, but they made some baskets late in the shot clock to get there. The zone was very effective in the second half. They're just hard to guard. You gotta pick your poison.

ISU forward Jackie Carmichael, who claimed the top spot in ISU history with his 161st career block Wednesday night, was suspiciously quiet in the early going, but came up huge with 40 seconds to go in the half, grabbing an offensive rebound and going strong to the rim for an and-one.
After Carmichael missed his free throw, Nick Zeisloft came up with the loose ball and hit a last-second three, bringing ISU into halftime down just three, 42-39.

"I felt like Nick Z's shot was a big momentum-changer," Carmichael said. "For him to knock down that three, that was huge."

Creighton's third-year head coach was upset with the Bluejays' defense to close the half, when his team could have dealt a knockout blow to the Redbirds.

"Defensively, I thought we were decent until the last four minutes of the first half," McDermott said. "Some offensive rebound opportunities led to some baskets and got them back in the game when we had them down 12."

Muller and the Redbirds instituted the zone defense in the second half and slowed Creighton's offensive attack. After halftime, Wragge and Gibbs combined for just five points, but McDermott found his groove a bit, pouring in 11 points to finish with 15 on the evening.

"The zone slowed our tempo and that's not how we wanted to play," the elder McDermott said.

Coming out of the first timeout in the second half, Upshaw hit back-to-back threes to bring ISU even with Creighton. A few minutes later, a pair of treys from Bryant Allen gave the Redbirds their first lead since two minutes into the game.

But ISU failed to capitalize on the one-point lead, missing a pair of layups. Creighton responded with a three-pointer and never relinquished the lead down the stretch.

"It was critical," Muller said of the Redbirds' inability to cash in on their inspired run midway through the second half. "We had some opportunities at the basket to get a two-possession lead a couple times and we just didn't convert.

"You never know what's going to happen. Clearly, Creighton is not going to stop playing hard, but if you can make a basket there, get one more stop, then your team has a little run going and your team builds offense. But it was back-and-forth there toward the end and we could never stretch it...Clearly, not getting a hold of the game hurt us down the stretch."

Creighton isn't used to playing close games, having picked up all 12 of their wins by at least 10 points heading into the evening.

But the Redbirds -- who lost by three on the road to then-No. 5 Louisville on Dec. 1 -- are used to one-possession games and their experience showed late in a tight game as they played like a team with nothing to lose.
The Redbirds made things interesting as a dunk from Jackie Carmichael brought ISU within three at 73-70 before Creighton turned the ball over on a full-court press with under a minute remaining.

But the Bluejays' talent still won out in the end as McDermott and Co. put things away in the closing minutes, knocking down their free throws as ISU went cold from the floor.

"I don't panic with this group," Greg McDermott said. "We've got a lot of experience and guys believe in each other."

Senior Tyler Brown paced ISU with 15 points, including a quick lay-up in the waning seconds, but couldn't get the Redbirds over the hump.

"I felt like we could have come out with a W," Brown said. "It was just one stop and a score and you're at home. The crowd gets behind you and it just does something to you.

"But we didn't get a stop. We didn't get a bucket that we needed down the stretch to win."

Say it ain't so: DePaul commit Tyger Campbell reopens recruitment

tygercampbellnodepaul.jpg
AP

Say it ain't so: DePaul commit Tyger Campbell reopens recruitment

It looks like it was too good to be true.

Tyger Campbell shocked the recruiting world when he committed to DePaul on May 8.

Less than four months later, Campbell has reopened his recruitment.

The Rivals.com four-star point guard out of La Lumiere High School in Indiana, who is the No. 66 prospect in the 2018 Class, took to Twitter Friday night to explain his decision.

One of Campbell's original draws to the Blue Demons was DePaul hiring Shane Heirman as an assistant coach. Heirman coached Campbell for two seasons at La Lumiere.

"I like DePaul and honestly my coach (Shane Heirman) just went there and we have a great connection and he's always had my back," Campbell told Scout.com when he committed to the Blue Demons. "I like [DePaul] coach Dave Leitao, too. I like his program and he's an intelligent guy."

Campbell currently has offers from a handful of D1 schools, including Illinois, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Purdue, SMU, Memphis and Tennessee.

Upset alert? Why a confident UIC is challenging juggernaut Kentucky

uic.jpg
USA TODAY

Upset alert? Why a confident UIC is challenging juggernaut Kentucky

On the heels of a 12-win improvement, UIC basketball is riding confidently into the new season. 

And why shouldn't they be? Head coach Steve McClain returns a young, talented nucleus that's expected to challenge for a Horizon League championship and NCAA Tournament berth. 

In fact, the program is in such good shape that they thought: Let's play Kentucky. 

Yup, that's right. The UIC Flames will match up with the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on Nov. 26, a necessary stage in development, according to McClain. 

“Every year you build your program, there’s steps you have to take," McClain said. "When we got the opportunity to go to Kentucky, I think that’s the next level of exposure for our program.

"When you're chasing trying to be great, you gotta show your kids and show people what greatness looks like. I don't think anyone can argue what Kentucky has done, so I want to put our kids in that environment so they see what it is." 

The contrast between programs is severe. UIC hasn't made an NCAA Tournament since 2004. The Wildcats have made 11 since then. UIC has never advanced out of the first round at the Big Dance. Kentucky has eight National Championships. 

Even this upcoming season, as the Flames boast one of their most skilled teams in school history, none of them were ever touted like Kentucky's freshman class, which ranks No. 2 in the nation per ESPN. 

But the disparities in past successes don't seem to bother UIC. Instead, players, who were likely snubbed by bigger schools in recruitment, are excited about the opportunity to compete on a national stage that the Flames rarely see. 

“First I was like, ‘It’s about time we got someone like (Kentucky) on our schedule,’" said center Tai Odiase, one of the few seniors on the roster. "We’ve been trying to play bigger teams to showcase what we’re made of."

“I don’t see why you go into a place like that without a chip on your shoulder. You don’t go in there just to play basketball, we’re trying to win."

UIC will be heavy, heavy underdogs. There's no way around that. But there are certain spots where they may not be at such a disadvantage. 

On the defensive end, Odiase continued to terrorize guards and big men alike, finishing fifth in the NCAA with 2.9 blocks per game. The dynamic guard duo from "The Six," Godwin Boahen and Marcus Ottey, are quick enough to hang and both took a huge step down the stretch last season. Then there's the return of 2015-2016 Horizon League Newcomer of the Year Dikembe Dixson, who is recovering from a torn ACL.

"The doctors at times thought he was a freak of nature because he was back as quick as he was," McClain said.  

Still, it's a tune-up game for Kentucky, who also scheduled Kansas, UCLA and Louisville on their non-conference slate. But one team's expected walk through is another team's vital experience. 

"Our guys can walk in and see that on a given night, you can compete with anyone," McClain said. 

Given new athletic director Garrett Klassy's comments at his introductory press conference, it doesn't seem as if games like this are a one-hit wonder for UIC. 

“I am an aggressive scheduler," Klassy said. "I helped with the scheduling at George Washington. We’ll play anyone, anytime, anywhere.

"You want to measure yourself against the best. We have a lot of returning starters. It’ll be nice to go on the road, play a tough game and maybe sneak out an upset."