OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -After nine straight wins, Creighton is finally living up to preseason expectations.
Just in time for the postseason.
The Bluejays (24-6, 13-4) go into Saturday's final regular-season game against Illinois State tied with Northern Iowa for the Missouri Valley Conference lead and in strong contention for an at-large NCAA bid if they don't win next week's conference tournament.
Coach Dana Altman, of course, wants to leave nothing to chance with NCAA tournament selection committee members.
``We have to keep winning games, and if we do, that stuff will take care of itself,'' Altman said. ``If it doesn't, we'll have nobody to blame but ourselves. There are a lot of guys a lot smarter than I am making that decision. We just have to keep winning games.''
A month ago, sitting in the middle of the pack of the mid-major MVC, it looked as if the 6,000-student Jesuit school would be lucky to make a second straight NIT.
ment just to get into the NCAA tournament,'' guard Josh Dotzler said.
Entering Thursday, only Memphis (18) and the Citadel (10) had longer current winning streaks than the Bluejays, who began the week No. 48 in the RPI.
Altman said Booker Woodfox has been the key to Creighton's turnaround.
The senior sharpshooter, bothered by an ankle injury most of January, has made almost 61 percent of his 3-point shots over the last nine games. His nation-leading 51.3-percent accuracy from long range puts him in position to become Creighton's first NCAA statistical champion since Paul Silas led the nation in rebounding in 1964.
``Booker getting healthy,'' Altman said, ``been the biggest thing.''
Desperation has driven Woodfox, who is averaging 17 points during the streak and 15.8 for the season. He said he and fellow seniors Dotzler and Dustin Sitzmann were worried when the Bluejays, favored to win the Valley, got off to a 5-4 start in the league.
``We didn't want to end that way,'' Woodfox said. ``We don't want people to think of us as losing. We want people thinking of us as winning.''
Woodfox played with a renewed sense of purpose after his ankle injury. He's now a favorite for Valley player of the year.
and off the court has just gone up.''
Woodfox has been helped by the improvement of big men Kenny Lawson Jr. and Kenton Walker, who have combined for eight double-figure scoring games during the win streak. Junior-college transfer Justin Carter leads the team in rebounding with 5.1.
Freshman guard Antoine Young has had the hot hand lately, coming off the bench to score a season-high 15 points against Evansville on Feb. 17 and another 13 last Saturday against George Mason. Another reserve, Casey Harriman, made three big 3-pointers as the Bluejays rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to beat Missouri State 65-59.
``Different guys are stepping up at different times and doing a lot of different things,'' Dotzler said. ``It seems guys are making the right plays at the right time.''
Creighton, looking to make it to the NCAA tournament for the eighth time since 1999, is 9-4 against teams in the top 100 in RPI, 10-4 in road games and has won 20 of its past 25 games.
``I think we have an OK case, but I think there is still some more work that needs to be done for us to be there,'' Dotzler said. ``We understand that, and that's why all these games coming up are such big games for us.''

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