Power of prayer, 3-point shooting carries GW's Creek

Power of prayer, 3-point shooting carries GW's Creek
March 3, 2014, 8:00 am
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(Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

Maurice Creek believes in the power of prayer. 

The graduate transfer sought help after missing six of seven shots in the first half against George Mason on Sunday. That came after a clanking 2 of 12 performance in George Washington's previous game, a loss at No. 10 Saint Louis on February 22.

During the second half in Sunday's "Revolutionary Rivalry," the Patriots were the ones needing assistance.

Creek opened with 11 straight points including three 3-pointers on GW's first three possessions. His spurt opened up the Colonials' margin in the eventual 66-58 victory.

"Pray, that's what I do, all the time. Before the game, after the game and during the game," Creek said after scoring 18 of his 22 points in the second half. "It's tough. I had a poor first half. [I] just wanted to rethink and keep shooting.

[MORE: GW beats Mason in Revolutionary battle]

"Shooters are going to have that type of half, but you don't want to have that type of game."

George Washington coach Mike Lonergan believes in Maurice Creek. That's the case even as GW's leading scorer lost some of his early season momentum.

"I [recently] told him he was on a milk carton," the 48-year-old coach joked of his team's top scorer. "Not everybody got my joke. He's been missing for a while."

Creek's 22 points matched his scoring high since tallying 22 against UMBC on December 21.

"I've been praying to," Lonergan said. "I went to Mass early this morning. He's one of the best shooters I've ever coached. I told him to keep shooting."

Teammates believe in Maurice Creek, who joined the program this season after an injury-plagued run at Indiana.

"We feel like we have no pressure when he hits those shots," fellow guard Patricio Garino said.

Last season the Colonials (21-7, 9-5 Atlantic 10) were among the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country. Then Creek came home.

GW entered the second half with a 26-24 lead when the Oxon Hill native drained a 3-pointer from the right wing on the Colonials first possession. Next two trips down the court, 3-ball from the left corner then another from the top of the key as they opened an 11-point lead.

"Coach called great plays for me to get wide-open shots," Creek said. "It's my purpose to knock them down. That's what I did in the second half."

After the Patriots (10-18, 3-11) rallied to 42-41 with 10 minutes remaining, GW pulled away again with a decisive 15-2 run. The 6-foot-5 Creek put in consecutive baskets with a jumper and tip-in during that stretch. He finished the half 6 of 9 from the field.

"Those three 3's in a row I think gave us a lot of confidence," said Garino, who had 13 points before fouling out. "He got us going. It was a great start to the second half and from there we kept it up."

Creek made four from beyond the arc against George Mason and GW finished 8 of 19 overall. That deep production led to less attention devoted to the Colonials inside game, which in turn led to 19 second-chance points.

"For us, hitting eight 3's is huge," Lonergan said. We only average a little over five made 3's a game. It opened up things up for us so they can't collapse on our bigs."

That's what Creek has done for this team throughout the season, but less consistently of late. He opened A-10 play averaging a team-leading 16.0 points. Though he still tops GW in scoring, the average entering Sunday was 13.7.

Creek still has faith. Perhaps as important for him, so do those around him. GW is tied with Massachusetts for fourth place in the A-10 with two games remaining. The Colonials close their home schedule Wednesday's against Saint Joseph's.

"That's what team is all about," Creek said. "When you have a team that trusts you to your fullest ability to make plays, your time is going to come. My teammates kept telling me to shoot the ball and I got wide-open shots and knocked them down."

After all, that's his purpose.