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."

DeShone Kizer stays the same leader for new group of Notre Dame teammates

DeShone Kizer stays the same leader for new group of Notre Dame teammates

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A number of teammates took the field for the first time with DeShone Kizer during the cacophony of Sunday night’s atmosphere at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin. And much as Kizer did last year, he led the Irish offense with a certain kind of poise and mentality that deftly toes the line between confident and cocky. 

“When we were down by two touchdowns or when it was tied, he had the same demeanor,” sophomore receiver C.J. Sanders said. “That really speaks volumes about him as a man.”

Kizer wowed his teammates a year ago when he subbed in for the injured Malik Zaire and threw a game-winning touchdown to Will Fuller. It wasn’t just for the throw, but it was also for the way in which the quarterback conducted himself in a hostile, pressure-packed environment. 

Last year’s Irish offense, though, was loaded with leaders. Ronnie Stanley, Nick Martin and Chris Brown were pillars on that team, and there were veterans all around like Fuller, C.J. Prosise, Steve Elmer and Amir Carlisle. 

Notre Dame only returned a handful of upperclassmen who played on that 2015 team in Kizer, Torii Hunter Jr., Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson (running back Tarean Folston was injured in Week 1 against Texas, and tight end Durham Smythe missed the remainder of the regular season after an injury in Week 2). 

So that meant there was quite a bit of inexperience permeating Notre Dame’s offense Sunday night. But some of those greenhorns said Kizer’s composure and confidence helped them ease into a roaringly-intense evening. 

“When we were down, he brought us together and said we’re going to drive and score and come back,” sophomore receiver Equanimeous St. Brown said, adding that message from Kizer gave him and the rest of the Irish offense a confidence boost in the second half. 

“What young guys typically don’t understand when they go into that environment is that it’s not too much different from what you’re doing in practice,” Kizer said. “When you step in front of 100,000 people, there’s a lot of noise and that could definitely create some adrenaline. But other than that, we’re playing the same game that we’ve been playing all summer. 

“The plays have been made time and time again all offseason and just understanding that when they’re out there, they’re expected to make those same exact plays and all they have to do is do that and do that well. You don’t have to go out there and be someone else. We have a really good coaching staff who put you in good positions to make big plays and all you have to do is execute what they say.” 

Leadership is one of those nebulous things every football player and coach will tell you is necessary, but it’s a quality that’s impossible to quantify. It’s not an end-all, be-all for an offense or defense — Notre Dame, after all, didn’t score when it got the ball back after Jarron Jones’ miraculous blocked PAT, which probably had more to do with the loss of Hunter Jr. than anything else — but it is something that can be pointed to as an asset in close games. 

And with Kizer quarterbacking the offense, Notre Dame has to feel confident in its ability to hang in close games. It still needs its special teams, defense (which was primarily behind recent losses to Stanford and Texas) and coaching (behind the loss to Clemson) to come through, but the next time Notre Dame finds itself in a high-pressure, hostile situation, it can count on Kizer to keep things calm. 

And that counts for something, whatever the extent of it is. 

“Before the game he kind of talked to us, got in front of us and told us hey, I don’t care how young you are, I know you guys can make plays,” Sanders said. “So just hearing that from him developed a comfort level to know that he can depend on us. Hearing that from him really made a big difference.” 

Loyola excited for upcoming season, trip to Spain

Loyola excited for upcoming season, trip to Spain

Loyola didn't have the season they were hoping for in 2015-16 but they're optimistic that things can turn around for the upcoming season. Even though the Loyola roster is filled with newcomers, the Ramblers are hopeful that a summer trip to Spain can help give them a head start.

As part of the trip, Loyola will get 10 extra practices and four games against Spanish competition that will give the team some much-needed experience before practice officially begins in October.

Head coach Porter Moser is already happy about working with this group, which features some productive returnees and a lot of talented newcomers.

"We play four games over there. They get that feel of being coached in a game at this level with their teammates," Moser said. "So then when we start back up in October they have a sense of some of the things we're trying to teach, some of the things of what to expect. And I think that's such a big element."

On a team full of new players, it will be important for senior guard Milton Doyle to have a bounce-back year for Loyola after a disappointing junior campaign. A former star at Marshall, Doyle saw his shooting percentages dip last season as the Loyola coaching staff challenged him to improve for his final season of college basketball. 

Moser is happy with the strides that Doyle has made this summer as he's added over 10 pounds of muscle to now play at 192 pounds. Also committed on the defensive end of the floor and being a team leader, Doyle is the Ramblers' only senior this season, so he'll be counted on to be a productive presence.

"It's a lot this year just because we had four seniors leave last year and I'm the last senior," Doyle said. "So it's my job to make sure everyone stays on track and everyone is uplifted, even when coaches get on them. That's my job right now."

Junior wing Donte Ingram — a former Simeon product — and junior guard Ben Richardson also return as key contributors from last year's team while Iowa State transfer guard Clayton Custer is expected to come in and be a major factor in the team's backcourt rotation.

As for the newcomers, Moser compared juco transfer forward Aundre Jackson favorably to former Loyola forward Christian Thomas while Vlatko Granic gives the team a stretch option at forward that they didn't have in the past. The team's freshmen are also very talented as guard Matt Chastain has shown solid athleticism and a good basketball IQ through some early practices. 

Another freshman guard, Cameron Satterwhite, is coming off of a torn ACL that cost him his senior season, but the Loyola staff is optimistic about his recovery for this season. Croatian freshman guard Bruno Skokna is also recovering from injury as he has played against professionals in Europe the last few seasons on an amateur contract. He is expected to be cleared soon so that he can return to action this season.

"I love this group because it's a group full of gym rats. This is a really enthusiastic group," Moser said. "They've come together, we've got a lot of newcomers. That's the benefit, that's why we did the Spain trip this summer."

Loyola takes its trip to Spain from Aug. 12-22 as they'll hit cities like Barcelona and Madrid during the trip.