March 14, 2014
By Sean Brennan
Special to BIGEAST.com
Maybe the BIG EAST should consider changing the name of its' MVP award to the Doug McDermott Player of the Year award. You'd certainly get no argument from DePaul, not after the performance McDermott turned in Thursday night in the BIG EAST tournament quarterfinal.
As if Creighton's first foray into the BIG EAST tournament wasn't going to be memorable enough for the legions of Bluejays fans who made the trip to New York from Omaha, but McDermott made it even more so with a shooting performance that may be commonplace to Creighton fans but certainly not in these parts.
McDermott sank 10 of his first 14 shots in the game, including 7-of -9 from behind the arc to finish the first half with 27 points - a BIG EAST tournament record for points in the first half - before ending his night with 35 points as No. 2 Creighton rolled to an 84-62 victory over 10th-seeded DePaul at Madison Square Garden.
The Bluejays (25-6) will meet third-seeded Xavier, a 68-65 winner over No. 6 Marquette in Thursday's quarterfinal finale, in Friday night's semifinal doubleheader nightcap while DePaul called it a season, finishing at 12-21. Brandon Young led the Blue Demons with 22 points in his college career finale but it was far too little to help DePaul keep pace with the Bombin' Bluejays, in general, and McDermott in particular.
The evening's second game saw Xavier (21-11) trail much of the first half before managing to take a 31-29 lead at the half courtesy of Semaj Christon's layup with 4.4 seconds to play. The Musketeers took the lead for good in the second half at 49-48 on a Christon jumper before he finally helped seal the deal by sinking four free throws in the final 34.4 seconds to finally dispatch Marquette.
The Golden Eagles (17-15) will now await a call from the NIT on Sunday while Xavier, who many believe was already in the NCAA tournament field before its win, further bolstered its case with the victory over Marquette. Justin Martin led Xavier with 19 points, Christon finished with 18 and Isaiah Philmore added 10. Deonte Burton paced Marquette with a game-high 23 points with Todd Mayo chipping in with 21 off the bench.
"Obviously tournament play, you can't celebrate a win too long because we'll be right back here in 21 hours," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "We battled. We played one of the most physical teams in the conference. We got knocked on our heel to start the game but we responded."
But despite the two-point victory for Xavier, the story of the evening session at the Garden was McDermott and his offensive shenanigans.
"Doug's performance in the first half was one of the better ones I've seen," said Greg McDermott, Doug's coach and father. "I've seen some good ones out of him but that was about as good as it gets."
Creighton, and McDermott, wasted little time getting untracked offensively as McDermott knocked down his first shot of the night - a three-ball, naturally - just 13 seconds into the game. After he tossed in a layup, Jahenns Manigat took over Creighton's long-range missile launching for a spell, nailing three straight three-balls in a 1:46 span for an early 17-6 Creighton cushion.
It wasn't long before McDermott was back at it as he drilled his second, third and fourth three-pointers of the half in rapid-fire succession, the last giving the Bluejays a 23-13 lead. Minutes later, there were two more three-balls from McDermott as the lead swelled to 31-20 and by the time he drained his seventh of the half, the lead was at 47-27 and the Garden started to sound a lot like Creighton's CenturyLink Center as chants of, "CU, CU" began to fill the arena.
It was exactly the kind of "Garden moment" McDermott was looking for coming into the game.
"As a kid you dream of playing in venues like this," Doug McDermott said. "The Garden is about as good as it gets. I watched the tournament growing up a lot. You remember the (UConn's) Kemba (Walker) moment, so many great games. So just to be part of it definitely was in the back of my mind and in warm-ups it felt surreal out there."
Think how DePaul must have felt once the game began.
Jahenns Manigat chipped in with 14 points for the Bluejays while Austin Chatman added 11 for Creighton, which split the season series with Xavier. The Bluejays and Musketeers are the first BIG EAST newcomers to reach the tournament semifinals in their first year in the conference since Villanova in 1981.