Missouri St.-Creighton Preview

Missouri St.-Creighton Preview

If his last performance against Missouri State is any indication, Creighton's Doug McDermott may be poised for another big game.

Back home for the first time in 15 days following a tough road swing, the 21st-ranked Bluejays may ride their star again on Wednesday night when they try for a regular-season sweep of the Bears.

McDermott, who ranks among the national leaders in scoring (23.7 points per game) and 3-point percentage (50.0), finished with a season-high 39 points to lead Creighton to a 74-52 victory at Missouri State on Jan. 11.

The junior made 14 consecutive shots and finished 15 for 19 from the field for the second-highest point total of his career. He had 44 in a win at Bradley last January.

Creighton (18-3, 7-2 Missouri Valley) shot 57.4 percent from the floor and 52.9 percent (9 of 17) from beyond the arc at Missouri State. It leads the nation in both categories.

Now McDermott and the Bluejays get another shot at a Bears team that has allowed 69.0 points on 48.0 percent shooting over its last five games.

"They'll fight us defensively," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "They're going to grind it out and try to control the tempo, much like they did at their place. We have to make every possession count."

McDermott's club, however, has shown it can take care of business, winning 71 straight home games against losing teams.

After dropping the first two legs of a three-game road swing, Creighton bounced back behind McDermott's 21 points with an 81-51 rout of Southern Illinois on Sunday - the Bluejays' most lopsided road win since Feb. 19, 1974.

Jahenns Manigat, who had 11 points in the first meeting with the Bears, added 12 against the Salukis after going scoreless in the team's consecutive defeats.

Gregory Echenique, the team's leading rebounder (7.5 per game), added 12 points and 11 boards to help the Bluejays gain a 39-19 advantage on the glass.

That's certain to be an area of concern for Missouri State (6-15, 4-5). The Bears are 0-13 when they've been outrebounded - their minus-3.7 differential is last in the MVC - while the Bluejays are 16-0 when they've beaten teams on the boards.

Missouri State had won six straight in the series before Creighton took the last two meetings in Springfield.

While the Bluejays have won 44 of 50 at home the past three seasons, the Bears have handed them two of those losses. Missouri State, however, is just 1-7 on the road this season.

Senior Anthony Downing had 26 points to help the Bears snap a four-game losing streak with a 78-72 victory over Drake on Sunday.

Downing has averaged 17.3 points in nine conference games, but managed only 10 on 4-of-11 shooting in the first meeting with the Bluejays.

Gavin Thurman, one of Missouri State's four starting freshmen, is averaging 15.3 points on 50.0 percent shooting in his last four games.

"Those freshman are playing at a high level," Greg McDermott said. "They're a dangerous basketball team."

The Bears, though, have had their share of growing pains, ranking at the bottom of the MVC in scoring (60.2), field-goal percentage (40.6), 3-point percentage (30.9) and free-throw percentage (64.3).

It doesn't figure to get any easier against a Creighton team that ranks near the top of the conference defensively in each of those areas.

The Bears shot 37.9 percent overall and 21.7 percent from 3-point range in the first meeting.

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

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The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”

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AP

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