Creighton went nearly eight minutes in the second half without making a field goal as Wichita State went on a game-deciding 12-2 run during that span in dealing the Bluejays a 58-52 loss in the quarterfinals of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Friday afternoon at The Family Arena.
Creighton’s first opening game loss at the MVC Tournament since 2005 was the Jays’ fourth straight on the season, while it was Wichita State’s sixth straight victory.
Wichita State (17-13) advances to the semifinals, where it will face regular-season champion Northern Iowa (25-5), which won its 17th straight game in the first quarterfinal game of the day. The Bluejays dropped to 18-12 with the loss and will wait until Monday night to learn of its postseason fate.
The Bluejays scored the first five points of the game with a bucket from Carli Tritz nearly two minutes in breaking the seal, while Kelsey Woodard followed with a three-pointer to put Creighton ahead 5-0 less than three minutes into the game. Wichita State answered with the next six points and maintained the lead for the remainder of the half.
Creighton’s inability to hold on to the ball allowed the Shockers to build their lead. The Bluejays made 3-of-5 shots to start the game, but had six turnovers in that same opening six minutes of the game. While the turnovers continued, Creighton made only 1-of-11 field goals over a nine minute span midway through the first half.
Wichita State’s largest lead in the first half was eight, up 20-12 with 6:42 to go. Creighton cut the lead back to four, with the help of three-pointers from Woodard and Sam Schuett, but the Shockers owned a 26-20 lead at the half.
Creighton which entered the game averaging 14.8 turnovers per game on the season, committed 14 turnovers in the first half, while the Shockers swiped nine steals in the opening 20 minutes. WSU out-scored the Jays 12-4 in the paint and 10-4 in points off turnovers in the opening half, as the Shockers had six turnovers in the opening half.
The Bluejays showed signs of life to start the second half, scoring the first seven points after intermission to take a 27-26 lead. Tritz scored five of the seven points, including the go-ahead jumper with just 2:16 ticked off the clock.
WSU answered with a bucket, but a Woodard three-pointer on CU’s next possession put the Jays ahead 30-28 with 16:22 left.
Creighton’s final lead would come following a Sarah Nelson basket with 15:38 to play, giving the Bluejays a 32-30 edge.
After that point, the Bluejays went cold, scoring only two points over the next eight minutes, while the Shockers used a 12-2 run to claim control of the game.
The Bluejays wouldn’t score their next field goal until 7:44 remained in the game, another Nelson basket.
Trailing 51-42 with 2:17 to play, the Bluejays mounted a final comeback attempt, cutting the Shocker lead all the way down to three points. DaNae Moore’s put-back with 38.2 seconds left brought the Jays within three, down 55-52.
After a Bluejay timeout, Creighton opted not to foul, and Wichita State worked the clock down inside 10 on its shot clock, before Chynna Turner nailed a three-point dagger with just inside 10 seconds to play. Turner’s three-pointer, just her seventh of the season, was WSU’s only three-point make of the game.
Tritz, the MVC Freshman of the Year, tied for game-high honors with 19 points, making 7-of-11 field goals and 4-of-4 free-throws to pace the Jays. She was the only Bluejay to score in double figures, as Woodard finished with nine points on 3-of-8 shooting from long range.
Moore added season-highs with seven points and team-high nine rebounds, to help the Bluejays out-rebound the Shockers 36-28.
Haleigh Lankster had 19 points, 14 rebounds and six steals to lead the Shockers. Jessica Diamond chipped in 16 points, including eight at the free throw line. Jazimen Gordon had 10 points and five rebounds off the bench for WSU.
The Shockers, who entered the game ranked eighth in the MVC in free-throw shooting (.656), made all 15 of their shots at the charity stripe. Creighton went only 12-of-18 (.667) at the line.
In a six-point game, the Bluejays were out-scored 18-12 in points off turnovers. The Shockers forced 21 CU turnovers, swiped 13 steals and out-scored Creighton 10-0 in fast-break opportunities.
Creighton, on its first four-game losing streak since losing seven straight to open the 2006-07 season, will now await to learn of its postseason fate. With an RPI of 68 entering the tournament, the Jays appear likely headed to their fourth straight Women’s NIT.
The Bluejays will learn of its postseason destination on Monday night following the NCAA Tournament selection show.