It might have been his moment. Maurice Creek had the ball in his hands, the final seconds ticking away, and a chance to be a hero with a 3-pointer for George Washington against Memphis on Friday in the opening round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
That’s the tough part of the tournament. For every success story, there is a corresponding tale of what might have been.
And defeat often rolls around in our brain longer than victory.
But here’s the deal. At least Creek, the former Indiana University freshman phenom, had his moment. Actually, he had lots of moments. Without Creek, who was the Colonials’ go-to guy all season long, it is unlikely George Washington would have made the tournament at all.
For those who knew Creek, and his injury struggles that kept him from performing at a high level for the Hoosiers, it was a fitting end for his college career, even if his shot in the 71-66 defeat soared past the rim.
In the next couple of weeks, and maybe months, Creek is going to agonize over his missed shot that would have tied the game and his 2 of 13 shooting day from the field.
Eventually, he is going to look fondly on helping a young George Washington team mature in a hurry, post a 24-8 season and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Creek’s final college game ends the story of a player who looked like he would develop into an IU legend when he started his career with a flurry after being recruited in Tom Crean’s first class. He scored 31 points against Kentucky his freshman season, before suffering a left kneecap fracture that ended his season. His right kneecap broke the next year and an ACL tear following the season after that one.
Although Crean marveled at Creek’s resiliency, he didn’t work him into the lineup during the 2012-13 season. Creek, after all, was damaged goods.
George Washington coach Mike Lonergan knew Creek’s history, but he needed a shooter and a senior leader. Lonergan told the Washington Post’s Mike Wise that when he watches Creek begin a practice, Creek looks like he is getting ready to play in an old-man’s league. “A lot of people thought he was done,” Lonergan said in Wise’s story.
A lot of folks in Indiana thought he was done, and I guess that’s the moral of this story. If you see a player persevere against incredible odds, you might give him a shot.
Besides working through his injuries at Indiana, he earned a bachelor’s degree in four years. That hard work in the classroom allowed him to transfer to George Washington and be eligible his senior year.
Creek said he felt he didn’t get a chance to play his junior year with Indiana, and the Colonials would give him that chance.
When we look back to Creek’s career, we won’t think of anyone giving him a chance. He took it.
Fouls, gaffes galore
So what was the bigger story during Gonzaga’s 85-77 victory over Oklahoma State, the 61 called fouls or the comment that announcer Andrew Catalon made about the Cowboys’ fouling tactics on Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski?
Unfortunately, the online world was buzzing about Catalon’s reference to “Hack-a-Shack” as it applied to Karnowski, who was born in Poland. Moments after Catalon used what is considered a derogatory term for a person of Polish descent, he apologized twice to the national television audience.
The first time obviously was a quick attempt to appease his producers, who had to be in his ear. The second time he used “sincerely” during his apology.
It will be interesting to see where this one goes.
The real story of the game was the most fouls in a non-overtime NCAA Tournament game since 1975. Certainly, if you were watching, you know many of the fouls were well deserved.
However, somewhere along the line we would hope that high quality officials begin to understand that they are controlling the game instead of the players. It’s a tough job, and I think we all know it’s hard to let the play progress when it is very physical, but all those calls did bring the game to a grinding halt.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.