No. 16 Creighton slips by Illinois State

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No. 16 Creighton slips by Illinois State

NORMAL -- Dan Muller never lost to Creighton during his playing days at ISU, but he was unable to keep that trend going as a coach Wednesday night as the Redbirds fell to No. 16 Creighton, 79-72, in front of a lively crowd at Redbird Arena.

"Disappointed in the result," said Muller, who is in his first year as ISU's head coach. "Our guys played very hard. They wanted to win. They competed at a high level. We had some guys who didn't play great, but they played hard and I'm happy with their effort.

"Creighton is a very good team. We just didn't make enough plays to beat a very good team."

Reigning Valley Player of the Year Doug McDermott was battling strep throat struggled to get going for Creighton, scoring just four points in the first half as Glenbard East product Johnny Hill and Chicago native Zeke Upshaw played solid defense on one of the top scorers in the nation.
"Fabulous win for us," Creighton head coach Greg McDermott, Doug's father, said. "I don't think many teams are going to come in here and win."

Ethan Wragge (18 points on 6-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc) and Grant Gibbs (14 points) picked up the slack for McDermott in the opening period as Creighton built a 12-point lead.

"They really hurt us in the first half with Gibbs making some shots he hasn't made," Muller said. "Wragge, we knew he could shoot. We talked about it, we just had some guys go a little brain-dead to give him some shot attempts, which was disappointing.

"But our zone was good. They shot 50 percent in the second half, but they made some baskets late in the shot clock to get there. The zone was very effective in the second half. They're just hard to guard. You gotta pick your poison.

ISU forward Jackie Carmichael, who claimed the top spot in ISU history with his 161st career block Wednesday night, was suspiciously quiet in the early going, but came up huge with 40 seconds to go in the half, grabbing an offensive rebound and going strong to the rim for an and-one.
After Carmichael missed his free throw, Nick Zeisloft came up with the loose ball and hit a last-second three, bringing ISU into halftime down just three, 42-39.

"I felt like Nick Z's shot was a big momentum-changer," Carmichael said. "For him to knock down that three, that was huge."

Creighton's third-year head coach was upset with the Bluejays' defense to close the half, when his team could have dealt a knockout blow to the Redbirds.

"Defensively, I thought we were decent until the last four minutes of the first half," McDermott said. "Some offensive rebound opportunities led to some baskets and got them back in the game when we had them down 12."

Muller and the Redbirds instituted the zone defense in the second half and slowed Creighton's offensive attack. After halftime, Wragge and Gibbs combined for just five points, but McDermott found his groove a bit, pouring in 11 points to finish with 15 on the evening.

"The zone slowed our tempo and that's not how we wanted to play," the elder McDermott said.

Coming out of the first timeout in the second half, Upshaw hit back-to-back threes to bring ISU even with Creighton. A few minutes later, a pair of treys from Bryant Allen gave the Redbirds their first lead since two minutes into the game.

But ISU failed to capitalize on the one-point lead, missing a pair of layups. Creighton responded with a three-pointer and never relinquished the lead down the stretch.

"It was critical," Muller said of the Redbirds' inability to cash in on their inspired run midway through the second half. "We had some opportunities at the basket to get a two-possession lead a couple times and we just didn't convert.

"You never know what's going to happen. Clearly, Creighton is not going to stop playing hard, but if you can make a basket there, get one more stop, then your team has a little run going and your team builds offense. But it was back-and-forth there toward the end and we could never stretch it...Clearly, not getting a hold of the game hurt us down the stretch."

Creighton isn't used to playing close games, having picked up all 12 of their wins by at least 10 points heading into the evening.

But the Redbirds -- who lost by three on the road to then-No. 5 Louisville on Dec. 1 -- are used to one-possession games and their experience showed late in a tight game as they played like a team with nothing to lose.
The Redbirds made things interesting as a dunk from Jackie Carmichael brought ISU within three at 73-70 before Creighton turned the ball over on a full-court press with under a minute remaining.

But the Bluejays' talent still won out in the end as McDermott and Co. put things away in the closing minutes, knocking down their free throws as ISU went cold from the floor.

"I don't panic with this group," Greg McDermott said. "We've got a lot of experience and guys believe in each other."

Senior Tyler Brown paced ISU with 15 points, including a quick lay-up in the waning seconds, but couldn't get the Redbirds over the hump.

"I felt like we could have come out with a W," Brown said. "It was just one stop and a score and you're at home. The crowd gets behind you and it just does something to you.

"But we didn't get a stop. We didn't get a bucket that we needed down the stretch to win."

High School coaches 'leave no stone unturned' in helping players explore next level

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Photo at top: Loyola Academy assistant coach Paul Pryma extends his hand toward a Steinmetz High School player during pregame introductions on Feb. 21. (Andres Waters/MEDILL)

High School coaches 'leave no stone unturned' in helping players explore next level

By Andres Waters
Special Contributor to CSNChicago.com

After Loyola Academy held off rival New Trier 43-40 to win the 2017 Zion-Benton regional championship, Ramblers head coach Tom Livatino had a special message for his players.

"That's the best celebration that I have ever been a part of," Livatino said. "Because everybody was completely about love. You guys love each other and we all can tell. I'm really, really proud just to be one of our coaches."

While the speech was a powerful way for Livatino to tell the players of his appreciation, he and other high school coaches engage in something much bigger to show players how proud they are: college recruiting.

In addition to time spent planning and practicing, coaches also sacrifice countless hours each week helping their players find opportunities to play at the next level.

"It's a really long part of the process, but to be honest, it's a part of the job that I absolutely love," Livatino said. "We demand so much of our players in every aspect. And, from a basketball standpoint, the least I could do is everything in my power to help them out."

Less than 48 hours after the Ramblers completed their season with a loss to Evanston Township in the Waukegan Sectional semifinal, Livatino was back in his office holding individual meetings with each player.

Starting with the 10 departing seniors, Livatino discussed the factors that go into choosing a college for high school athletes.

His conversations with the two players who already committed, senior guards Ramar Evans and Matt Lynch, focused on how they felt about their next steps. With the others, Livatino asked whether they wanted to play at the next level and, if so, which schools they wanted to attend that shared an interest in them. The conversations held with the Ramblers' juniors are very similar.

"I wasn't just looking for basketball, I was looking for a fit academically and socially," said Lynch, who committed to Division III St. Norbert College. "[Livatino] said St. Norbert would be the best fit for me. It fit everything I was looking for."

Read the full story at Medill Reports Chicago.

CSN Chicago, in partnership with Northwestern University,  features journalism by students in the graduate program at Medill School of Journalism. The students are reporters for Medill News Service. Medill faculty members edit the student work. Click here for more information about Medill.

From dunks to deliveries: Former No. 1 pick LaRue Martin's unlikely success story

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Photo at top: La Rue Martin poses for a photo at a National Basketball Retired Players Association event. (Photo courtesy of La Rue Martin)

From dunks to deliveries: Former No. 1 pick LaRue Martin's unlikely success story

By Elan Kane
Special Contributor to CSNChicago.com

LaRue Martin Jr. thought his future was set. The Portland Trail Blazers had drafted him No. 1 overall in the 1972 NBA draft. Money and fame awaited.

Fifteen years later, he started work as a UPS driver, struggling to find uniform pants that fit his 6-foot-11 frame.

"There is life after sports," Martin said. "Period."

It's been 45 years since the draft and Martin, a former Loyola University star, is now the UPS Illinois district public affairs and community services manager. He is labeled by many as one of the biggest busts in NBA draft history, but he is fine with that designation.

"I don't believe in saying anything negative, you have no control over that," Martin said. "I took care of my family, did what I had to do and I'm the type of person I can't dwell off the negatives. I can't. I kept my head up high and moved onto a positive mode of life and it has treated me very well."

Martin averaged 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in 14 minutes per game in just four seasons with the Trail Blazers. He blames his low numbers on his lack of playing time, but many believe he was just not good enough.

"He didn't get playing time because he [stunk]," said Boston Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan, who has covered the NBA for decades. "[Former No. 1 overall draft pick Michael] Olowokandi didn't do much but I think he did more than that."

Martin is used to the criticism.

"As a young man, reading the papers all the time, that bothered me, I must admit that," Martin said. "But I hold my head up high now because I've been very successful in the corporate world."

Read the full story at Medill Reports Chicago.

CSN Chicago, in partnership with Northwestern University,  features journalism by students in the graduate program at Medill School of Journalism. The students are reporters for Medill News Service. Medill faculty members edit the student work. Click here for more information about Medill.