Buzzer Beater vs. Wichita State Keeps Creighton Alive
ST. LOUIS – The blue and white faithful from Omaha can file the date of March 6, 2009 in their long basketball history as another day Booker Woodfox won the game.
“Book has made a career of doing that, and so for that moment I was elated,” Creighton head coach Dana Altman said.
After blowing its 13-point lead with four minutes to play, Creighton inbounded the ball to the 2009 Missouri Valley Conference player of the year and with 1.9 seconds to work, the 6-foot-1 senior fumbled the pass only to gather his footing and hit a 15-foot runner at the buzzer to give the Bluejays an improbable 63-62 victory over seventh-seeded Wichita State in a MVC Tournament quarterfinal contest.
“Really there ain’t no describing it,” Woodfox said. “The coach drew up a good play, I got the ball, it was a good lock and I just let it go.”
MVC commissioner Doug Elgin did confirm after discussing the controversial situation with the referees assigned (Mike Sanzere, David Hall and Ted Hillary) and looking repeatedly at the replay in the television truck that the clock did start late but was confident the shot left Woodfox’s hand with “at least 0.4 seconds left on the clock.”
“It was apparent that the clock didn’t start on time – everybody knows that,” Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall said. “That’s a hard thing to do (taking the shot off the board) but it’s not a hard thing to do to click a button when the ball is inbounds.”
For 30 minutes, Creighton (26-6) looked like a team desperate to impress, and then for the final ten became simply desperate. Desperate to hold on for a win, desperate for an NCAA Tournament berth, desperately trying to make late free throws and desperate to just hang on to the ball.
“I’m happy and disappointed all at the same time, happy we won the game, really disappointed in the way we handled the last ten minutes,” Altman said.
Without this win, the Bluejays would likely have ended all hope for an at-large bid from the Selection Committee.
“It wouldn’t have been what we wanted,” Woodfox said. “We came here to win the whole thing. We worked way too hard to let that game slip away.”
Wichita State’s impressive late 19-4 flurry culminated with Shocker freshman guard Toure’ Murry hitting an off-balance three-pointer to give his team what it thought would be the game-winning basket.
“(I thought) he did it again,” Shockers forward Ramon Clemente said. “I couldn’t believe we pulled that off after being down 21 but my teammates kept fighting.”
Sophomore forward A.J. Hawkins was the Shockers’ (16-16) high scorer with 17 points, all of which came in the second half.
During the stretch, the Creighton bench watched in near disbelief at its team surrendered costly turnovers, missed critical free throws and gave the Shockers numerous easy baskets.
“We’ve got a veteran ball club and the turnovers were embarrassing, our defense was embarrassing and so it was a bad ten minutes for us,” Altman said.
Altman’s squad has now reeled off 11 straight wins and has given the Selection Committee plenty of reasons to consider them for an at-large berth in nine days.
Creighton will next face the winner of Illinois State/Evansville in the semi-final round at 4:05 p.m. Saturday.
The second-seeded Bluejays went on a 13-5 run to start the first six minutes of play that culminated in a steal and open-court dunk for sophomore guard P’Allen Stinnett and had Shockers head coach Greg Marshall begging for the four-minute media timeout.
Stinnett would later get his poster-worthy dunk in the second half when he got out in front of everybody and posed for a jam that put Creighton up 47-27.
Creighton went into the locker room with a commanding 36-23 halftime lead thanks to their transition offense (12 fast break points) and perimeter defense (WSU shot 7-of-26 in first half with 10 turnovers). All this while Woodfox was held scoreless (0-for-5 shooting in first half).
“I wasn’t playing like I should have,” Woodfox said. “I was forcing shots and I just got too fast.”
The senior from Lewisville, Texas made up for that quickly by nailing a three-pointer less than a minute into the second half. Woodfox ended the night with a game-high 17 points.
The Bluejays followed that momentum from the Woodfox triple with a sensational block on the defensive end by 6-foot-9 center Kenny Lawson. The 245-pound ran the floor to receive a highlight reel alley-oop dunk on the other end.
Before the Shockers could blink in the second half, Creighton had scored 11 of the first 13 points and the Bluejays’ raucous fans were watching their team race to a 47-25 lead by the first media timeout.
Wichita State (16-16) was less than 24 hours removed from a 59-46 victory over Missouri State in its opening round game and Marshall refused to plead his case for his squad to receive a non-NCAA postseason bid.
“It’s up to you guys if you want to politic for any of these tournaments beyond the NCAA and the NIT,” Marshall said.