Winners always want the ball.
In the final seconds of the men’s basketball team’s 77-75 win over Maryland Sunday, graduate student guard Maurice Creek wanted the ball.
With a step back and a quick release, Creek proved that he is ready to be a winner as well. With that one shot and the 25-point performance, he proved that he is the biggest reason for the Colonials’ hot start this season.
“We have players now who are more experienced,” head coach Mike Lonergan said after his team’s dramatic win. “Maurice adds a go-to guy, a shooter, we desperately needed.”
For the past three years, Creek has had to watch from the sidelines as his Indiana teams got better and better – won more and more. To get to taste that victory for himself, he made the bold choice to make use of his extra year of eligibility and transfer to a mid-major with, seemingly, just mid-major potential.
So far, he couldn’t have imagined it going any better.
In front of his family and without evidence of nerves, Creek “respectfully” asked Lonergan for the opportunity to nail what he described as the biggest shot of his college career.
“I’m glad this day has come and I got the opportunity to actually take that shot that everybody dreams of taking and then actually to make that shot that everybody wants to take,” Creek said with a smile on his face in the postgame interview. “I didn’t think it would come, especially this early, but I’m glad it came today.”
But why was it not surprising that he was able to pull of the heroics? Creek is used to these games.
The crowds at Assembly Hall for any Hoosier home game are just as large and probably even louder than they were at the Verizon Center. Not to take away any credit from the strong showing by the Colonial Army, but the atmosphere just doesn’t compare to the tradition and gravitas of Indiana basketball.
What does compare, though, is the level of success that both teams are having this season (Indiana is 7-2 on the season, both losses coming against Top 25 opponents). After Sunday, the Colonials now have three marquee wins on their resume, with much of the credit needing to go to Creek’s outstanding play.
“[My teammates] make plays for me and I want to make plays for them and when we get comfortable with each other and run our offense, it’s great. As you see we get wide open shots, we get wide open layups, tip ins, dunks – it’s great to have the team that has so much chemistry and can get things done,” Creek said.
The maturity of the four top sophomores is undeniable. Forward Kevin Larsen, a preseason most-improved candidate, gave his performance of the year in GW’s upset win against Creighton and has averaged 9.4 points on the season.
Joe McDonald has quickly become the sturdy point guard that everyone expected him to be. His stat lines have reached “triple-double watch” in the last two games, putting up 13 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and four steals against UMD.
Kethan Savage, possibly experiencing the biggest growth of the four, has shown his explosive ability off the dribble and his “jump through the roof” capabilities at the rim. He is averaging 13 points per game on an incredible 55.8 percent shooting. Even Patricio Garino, who has seen action in only four games this season due to a finger injury, has shown his hole on the defensive side of the ball is a huge one to fill.
Then, there’s Isaiah Armwood, who has shined as the team’s backbone and energizer, averaging 14 points per game and leading in both rebounds and blocks at 8.3 and 2.7 per game, respectively.
But the biggest reason for the 8-1 start has to be Creek.
“Creek is a great player and now he’s healthy and playing like it,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. “He made the shot of the game.”
He currently leads the team with 16.3 points per game and has brought GW’s three-point shooting from the cellar of the NCAA to the top 15. He has been clutch from the free throw line and a sense of calm in the Colonials most intense moments thus far.
In short: Indiana’s loss has become GW’s treasure.