Saturday, January 3, 7PM
Radio: Big Sports 590 AM or Bigsports590.com
TV: Fox Sports Net (Omaha-Cox Ch. 47)
The Jays make the trip to Normal for the first highly anticipated matchup of the conference season in Illinois St. Here is what we need to know about the Redbirds:
- They are one of 6 teams in Division I that are still undefeated (Clemson, North Carolina, Pitt, Wake Forest and Stanford)
- They are having their best start in school history with a school record 13 wins in a row.
- The Redbirds are led by Champ Oguchi (who transferred from Oregon) and POY candidate Osiris Eldridge. Lloyd Philips leads the team in three-point percentage and assists.
- Illinois St. owns a 36-23 advantage over the Jays in the series. Creighton has lost the last 3.
- Gary Cole who just played the part of Lumbergh with “flair” in Officespace is a known alumni of Illinois St.
Playing in the Valley is a little different than playing in the Pac-10. I hope Mr. Oguchi realizes that. He is making bold statements that “I would be lying if I said we weren’t thinking about an
undefeated season.” With the creampuffs the Redbirds have played so far, I think their confidence is a little bloated at this point. The pressure is on them to defend their home court….and most likely no student section to harass the Jays as much as they could if school was in session.
Between Oguchi and Lloyd Phillips, they are just being downright confident:
“Everyone picked Creighton No. 1 (in the preseason), everywhere you looked,” said ISU junior guard Lloyd Phillips. “I guess no one knew what we had. This is a statement (game) for us.”
Phillips knows Woodfox and many of Creighton’s players quite well from summer pick-up games when he was at Iowa Western Community College, which is just over the Missouri River from Omaha. He said the Bluejays never recruited him.
“I was 10 minutes away, but it doesn’t really bug me. I’m glad they didn’t,” said Phillips. “I wouldn’t be 13-0. I came to the perfect place.”
There are several factors that will make this game a fun one to watch. Both teams can score and average 76 points a game. Right now the Jays have a slightly better Strength of Schedule (268 to 272), but that stat is a little skewed. Illinois St. has played a soft schedule. The odds makers have this as Illinois St. +2. It should be an up and down game.
Unfortunately there is one stat and one player that is sticking out to me that will be a factor in this one and that is Osiris Eldridge. He is averaging 19 points per game against Creighton in his career, shooting 51% from the field against the Jays, and almost 54% from three. This guys has been a one man wrecking crew and someone that needs to be stopped. If he has an outstanding game I’m afraid the Jays lose.
Now the other guy to be wary of is Oguchi, mainly because of his prolific scoring not only this season, but in the past at Oregon. However with the way their lineup is with mostly guards, he might matchup pretty good with Justin Carter and it will be interesting to see who gets the best of each other in that one.
The way I see it, it comes down to rebounding again. The 3-headed inside game that is Kenny Lawson, Kenton Walker, and Chad Millard (though Chad is questionable) are going to need to own the boards along with Casey Harriman and Kaleb Korver doing the same. I don’t think there will be an issue scoring however, the Jays can’t live on their outside shooting and the performance of these 5 guys will be the factor. P’Allen will get his points, Booker Woodfox will get his points, but it will be what will happen on the missed shots and the inside game that will make the difference.
The Jays are flowing smoothly right now and I’m not convinced that the Redbirds are ready for this. However, the pressure is on Illinois St. in this one. A win on the road for the Jays against an “undefeated” team will be icing on the cake and a chance to make an early statement in the conference race. Couple that with a one loss Dayton team and things will be looking pretty good for the Jays. Illinois St. has one win against an opponent that has an over .500 record (Illinois-Chicago). I’m telling you, until they prove me wrong, they are smoking mirrors. Creighton’s depth will take over and the Redbirds will be saddled with foul trouble.
Prediction: Creighton 83, Illinois St. 76.