SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Coach Greg McDermott and Creighton (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) knew Missouri State would be a formidable opponent, something the Bears proved Dec. 28 when they upset the Bluejays in Omaha.
Missouri State almost got the best of the Bluejays again Wednesday night, but Creighton rallied late in the second half for a 66-65 victory over the Missouri Valley Conference rival."I have all the respect in the world for Missouri State. Baskets were difficult to come by. Missouri State made it difficult to score," McDermott said.Gregory Echenique scored 16 points, and Doug McDermott added 15 to help Creighton (17-2, 7-1) win its seventh straight game since the loss to Missouri State in Omaha.Echenique was 5 of 6 from the field, made all six of his free throws and added seven rebounds."We knew they were coming off two straight losses and they were going to try to get us. We needed this win," Echenique said. "We were getting stops in the second half and defense is our strength. It shows we're improving in that area."Anthony Downing had 14 points for Missouri State (11-9, 4-4). Kyle Weems added 13 points for the Bears, 11 in the second half.Missouri State had two late chances, but missed both shots en route to its third straight loss.Weems missed a jumper from the baseline, and McDermott was fouled on the rebound with 6.4 seconds left.McDermott then missed a free throw, giving the Bears another chance.Missouri State's Caleb Patterson grabbed the rebound and passed to Downing, who drove the length of the court and missed a jumper from near the free throw line as time expired."Our effort was great," Weems said. "The ball just didn't bounce the way we needed it to and we ended up with a one-point loss."Creighton, which trailed 56-53 with 7:37 left, took the lead at 61-58 on Josh Jones' 3-pointer with 4:46 left. The Bears rallied to tie it at 63 with 2:50 to play on Weems' jumper and Downing's two free throws.Grant Gibbs scored with 1:06 left to give Creighton a 66-63 lead, and Jarmar Gulley completed the scoring with 55.1 seconds left.There were 16 ties and 10 lead changes. Creighton's biggest lead was four, and Missouri led by eight early in the second half."We had 14 assists and three turnovers and held one of the best scoring teams in the country to 66 points," first-year Missouri State coach Paul Lusk said. "We played a solid game. At some point, we're going to get some bounces."Creighton had 11 turnovers in the first, but the leading field-goal shooting team in the country shot 57 percent only trailed 34-30."We just had to take care of the basketball in the second half. We came out tentative in the first half, We weren't taking care of the ball," Gibbs said.