Just once since rejoining the Missouri Valley in 1977 has Creighton opened conference play with seven straight victories.
This season’s Creighton team will try to match the accomplishment of the 2002-03 Bluejays by improving its Valley record to 7-0 with a victory over Wichita State.
A win in the 3 p.m. game at Koch Arena in Wichita would give the No. 12 Bluejays a two-game lead in the standings over the Shockers and the winner of Saturday’s meeting between Indiana State and Evansville. The significance of that is not lost on Creighton coach Greg McDermott.
“It would put us in a great spot,” McDermott said. “The reality of it is that not many teams are going to go into Wichita and win. If you can figure out how to do it, you’ve pretty much gained a game on everybody else.
“We just need to take care of business, get prepared to play and focused on what we need to do. If we can do that, everything will take care of itself.”
Creighton forward Doug McDermott is well aware of the magnitude of what a win over the Shockers would mean to him and his teammates.
“It would be huge,” he said. “It’s still early but being able to steal one on the road. We know these guys will be coming to our place late in the season, and we’re really looking forward to this one.”
McDermott has struggled in his previous four meetings with the Shockers, averaging 10.8 points and failing to shoot at least 50 percent from the field or the 3-point line.
He’s looked unsure of himself at times while trying to find holes in the Shockers’ aggressive defense, and few Creighton fans will forget the image of father and son exchanging words last February when Wichita State turned its visit to Omaha into a Shocker rout.
The work Doug McDermott did in the offseason has shown up in a lot of different areas this season. The one that cannot be overlooked is how he appears better prepared to handle the ups and downs that come in the flow of a game.
His last two performances underscore that. He missed three of his first four shots in a Jan. 11 road game but came back to make 14 straight and finish with 39 points in a 74-52 victory. He also got off to a slow start in Tuesday’s home game against Northern Iowa.
He made his first shot, then missed his next four. He kept plugging and eventually scored 31 points as the Bluejays pulled away for a 79-68 victory.
“Northern Iowa was kind of a rough start but I settled in and started getting some easier shots,” McDermott said. “My confidence is at an all-time high, my body feels great and things are just rolling. Hopefully, that can continue.”
Creighton fans would second that, especially in Saturday’s showdown with the Shockers.