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Austin Chatman
Courtesy: AP

Men's Basketball Fends Off Redbirds, 79-72

NORMAL, Ill. -- Ethan Wragge tied a season-high with 18 points and Grant Gibbs added 16 points as Creighton defeated Illinois State, 79-72, in a battle of the teams picked atop the preseason Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball poll.

League favorite Creighton entered the game ranked 11th in the USA Today coaches poll and were 16th in the Associated Press poll. The Jays are now 13-1 and 2-0 in the MVC with their seventh straight win. ISU dropped to 9-5 (0-2 MVC).

Tyler Brown buried consecutive three-pointers to give the Redbirds an early 6-3 lead, only to see Gibbs answer with seven straight for Creighton during an 8-0 run that saw the Jays move ahead 11-6. A short time later Wragge came off the bench red-hot, sinking his first four three-point attempts as Creighton took leads of 20-8 and 26-17.

Creighton would maintain a lead the rest of the half, going up 42-30 after consecutive treys from Jahenns Manigat and Wragge, only to see ISU end the half on a 9-0 run of its own in the final two minutes.

Wragge led CU with 15 points at the break, while Gibbs had 12 points before picking up his second personal foul.  The Jays sank 10-of-16 three-pointers in the opening half while making only five two-point baskets and two free throws in taking a 42-39 edge into the locker room.

The teams continued their high-tempo action in the second half, and the Redbirds would tie the game at 53-all on consecutive three-pointers by Zeke Upshaw with 15:15 left. ISU took its first lead since 6-5 on a three-pointer from Allen to go up 63-61 with 9:16 left, only to see CU answer when Gregory Echenique turned in an old-fashioned three-point play.

The teams would play a tightly-contested battle the rest of the night. ISU had a chance to tie with 3:53 left, only to have Kaza Keane miss a free throw. Creighton then milked most of the shot clock before Echenique scored inside to give CU a 71-68 lead with 3:17 left.

The teams would exchange several empty possessions before Austin Chatman found McDermott for an alley-oop late in the shot clock, making it 73-68 with 1:24 to go. ISU cut that defiict to three on a dunk from Jackie Carmichael with 54.7 left, and Creighton would turn it over with 46.7 to play.

Creighton's defense harassed ISU the next possession, and Carmichael missed badly on a perimeter jumper. Gibbs grabbed the rebound and threw it to Chatman, who was fouled with 14.8 left. He sank both to give CU a five-point lead, only to see Tyler Brown answer with a quick score with 8.7 left. After ISU's final timeout, the Jays found McDermott, who was fouled with 7.9 left. McDermott made two free-throws to ice it, and Gibbs sank two more with 0.5 left to seal the deal.

Wragge led CU with 18 points, making 6-of-9 three-pointers in 21 minutes of play. Gibbs had 16, while McDermott finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. Also in double-figures with 12 points and five rebounds. Chatman tallied seven points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals in the win. CU shot 52.8 percent from the floor, including 13-of-25 from downtown, while also making 10-of-12 fouls shots. The Jays won the battle of the boards, 35-32.

ISU had four men in double-figures, paced by 15 each from Brown and Allen. Carmichael finished with 10 points, while Upshaw had 11 points in 18 minutes. ISU shot 42.2 percent from the field and 13-of-28 from three-point range, but sank only 5-of-10 foul shots.

Creighton returns home on Saturday when it hosts Indiana State in a 2:05 pm contest.

NOTES: Creighton's Doug McDermott was named's National Player of the Month for December earlier on Wednesday ...Creighton improved to 6-0 under Greg McDermott against Illinois State, and McDermott has now won 11 straight vs. the Redbirds  ...Creighton has won 15 straight games against teams that wear a shade of red ...Illinois State dropped to 0-8 all-time at Redbird Arena against ranked teams and hasn't won in Normal vs. a ranked foe since March 3, 1984 ...Creighton has won its first five games away from home for the first time since 1999-00 ...Creighton's Doug McDermott moved from 42nd to 40th on the all-time MVC scoring chart. He now owns 1,703 career points ...Creighton has won 17 straight vs. the Redbirds when scoring 68 points or more ...Creighton's 13 three-pointers and 52.0 percent marksmanship from downtown were season-highs ...Creighton hadn't trailed in the second half since Nov. 28th before trailing for 1:48 today after intermission. Creighton has trailed a total of 3:49 in the past four games ...The game was Creighton's first this season decided by less than 10 points.

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