January 2, 2009 1:17 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
Creighton at Illinois State (Missouri Valley)
Redbird Arena - Normal, IL
Saturday, 8:05 PM EST
We don't often keep the G!O!T!N! camera crew in one place for any significant time, but after the events of New Year's Eve afternoon, we have a situation in the Valley that requires additional monitoring. On Wednesday, Illinois State absolutely destroyed Evansville 80-50, a total shutdown in every facet. This result wouldn't have looked very impressive, say, last year, but the Purple Aces came in with a 9-2 record against a tough schedule, and the Redbirds were looking for validation of a 12-0 record against one of the country's softest slates. Immediately after the contest, Illinois State's RPI jumped into the 30's, and its SOS climbed 35 spots to No. 270. So even though it was late December in the MVC, this was an important result.
That giant win sets up a monster matchup with the preseason favorites in the league, Creighton (12-2, 9-0). After a minor blip in late November that included road losses to Arkansas-Little Rock and Nebraska (teams the Bluejays usually overcome), a gut check on toughness sparked a nine-game win streak, none of which have been close. Booker Woodfox was handed the lead job in an offense that shoots the 3 incredibly well, and has been the team's leading scorer in seven of those games. On defense, however, is where Creighton's greatest gains over last year have come. Dana Altman's club forces a lot of turnovers (19 per game), and has allowed just 34.7 percent shooting in the team's first two Valley wins over Wichita State and Indiana State.
For the Redbirds (13-0, 2-0) to win this, and take their fourth straight victory in the series, they'll have to successfully pick the lock of that toughened Jays D. It'll require sterling performances by at least two of their big trio: MVC POY candidate Osiris Eldridge, Oregon transfer Champ Oguchi and 5-10 secret weapon Lloyd Phillips. The three are all averaging at least 12 ppg and have proven themselves capable of hot shooting nights during the 2008 part of the schedule. Illinois State has already earned half of last season's victory total (a 25-10 NIT season), but a win over Creighton on Saturday would put it in the driver's seat for an NCAA upgrade.
|Hickory Picket Fences||27629|
|The Hopping Cats||21526|
|Under a Blood Red Line||10379|
|Jen Folds Five||6895|