Koch Arena was rockin’ on Saturday as the Shockers prepared to defend their court against #12 ranked Creighton. This is the biggest home game of the year for WSU, and it’s the best rivalry in the MVC. The students, just back from break, waited outside to get their precious spots as close to the floor as possible. The arena was blacked out. This is college basketball at it’s finest.
The Shockers were in control for most of the game only losing the lead just a few times. The atmosphere inside Koch Arena was electric. The deafening sound played a role in the game, I can only imagine. When a Creighton player messed up, if they didn’t hear about it from Greg McDermott, they definitely were going to hear about it from the crowd. Even when a player wouldn’t mess up, the crowd was still in their head. Doug McDermott while shooting free-throws was heckled by “Daddy’s Boy” being chanted repetitiously from the student section. Pair the crowd with solid defense and a deep bench, and it adds up to an upset win over Creighton. The final score was 67-64.
Each Shocker had a gutsy performance, but for me, the player of the game has to be Mal Armstead. He played 36 minutes out of 40, and his stat line was: 15 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 turnovers. The one stat I want to talk about specifically for Armstead is his freethrow percentage. It was 100%. He shot 3 for 3 and made them near the end of the game. Malcolm has a knack for making big plays down the stretch of a game, and that intangible skill will pay dividends come March.
Tekele had a horrible night from the field, shooting an atrocious 0%. Yes, 0% wasn’t a typo, he was 0 for 10 from the field. It was one of those nights that a player just isn’t on and Creighton knew it. They allowed him 4-5 feet of space on all of his shots. It’s unusual for him to shoot that poorly, and I expect that he’ll be working on his jumpshot a lot this week. His defense against Doug McDermott was a saving grace for him though, and is what earned him his minutes. His quickness and strength threw Doug off just enough to be effective.
Hall had a dominating performance with 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 1 block. In just his 2nd game back from injury, he’s showing a lot of promise that he’ll be back at full strength come tournament time. He was 1-6 from the free-throw line, and I wonder if his thumb had a say in that. Early had 13 points, 1 assist, and 1 steal. Orupke had 2 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks on just 13 minutes. Williams had a good outing with 10 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists and 1 steal. Wiggins, White and Van Vleet provided decent minutes off the bench with a combined point total of 7.
I’d like to take this time to point out that Doug McDermott is the best player in the Valley, and most likely the best player in the country. His offensive ability is something that only comes through the MVC every decade or two. He can score from anywhere on the court, and it just amazes me. Doug’s ability to score with his back to the goal, or facing up in the post is light years ahead of anyone else in this league. The only other player I can think that might come close to him would be Cleanthony Early, and he has the potential to come close, he isn’t there yet. As a Shocker you don’t have to like Doug McDermott, but you must respect him.
Coach Marshall has been receiving mid-season coach of the year nods from many analysts and publications around the country, and tonight backs up those claims. Gregg has been nothing less than a miracle worker this season. He lost his top 5 scorers from last year, and then has 3 starters injured just in time for conference play to start. Despite all those issues, he finds a way to be 17-2 after beating the #12 Creighton Bluejays. The future for the Shockers looks as bright as it’s ever been after 19 games. We have a solid résumé to get into the tournament as an at-large, and we’re first in the Valley after beating Creighton. Gregg Marshall has something special going on in Wichita.