Doug McDermott scored 39 points, including the game-winner, in a 63-60 win over St. John's in Omaha.
Bluejays Show Bulldogs Their Bite
The Bluejays entered the locker room with a commanding 53-24 lead. Doug McDermott had as many points as the Bulldogs through 20 minutes. One of the leading candidates for National Player of the Year awards made 9-of-12 shots from the field, including 3-of-3 from distance and an identical mark at the line. Neither Ethan Wragge nor Austin Chatman missed from deep, as they both sunk a pair of threes before half. As a team, CU made 21-of-31 shots from the field and sank 7-of-12 from deep, which led to a pretty pleased Greg McDermott.
"It's fun to watch, and fun for me to watch because a lot of that scoring was a result of making a play for your teammate," said the fourth-year Creighton coach. "That's the way we like to play basketball here. That's the culture we've tried to instill and our guys have bought into it."
Defense, usually a point of concern for Coach McDermott's team, was nearly as impressive as the offense, limiting the visiting Bulldogs to 27.8 percent shooting from the field and 28.6 percent from three. Starting point guard Alex Barlow was one of the few bright spots for Butler, scoring eight points and adding three assists in the first half. Kellen Dunham, the Bulldog's leading scorer who entered the game averaging nearly 19 points per game, hit just two of his eight shots from the floor and entered the half with five points.
"The first half is as good as we can play," said Creighton's coach after the game.
The hosts made quick work of the visitors with CU's patented style of unselfish play, regularly turning down decent looks in search of a better one. As sharp as the Jays were, Butler did not look like the team most expected. Brandon Miller's squad entered 0-4 in conference with three of those losses coming in overtime. The Bulldogs took sixth-ranked Villanova to overtime before falling 76-73, but that team didn't make it to Omaha.
"I do think that our team, for whatever reason, did not have it, and it's the first game that I've looked out and I saw our guys and we just didn't have it," said the first-year Butler coach. "We didn't have a pep in our step; we didn't have a hop in our step. We were slow to the ball. We were slow getting back on defense."
McDermott, who usually fares well offensively regardless of defensive scheme, feasted on late-arriving defenders in front of the sold out crowd. McDermott scored nine of CU's first 15 points and hardly slowed the rest of the half.
"You know, I just got it in some spots where I like it on the floor there," said the senior. "These guys did a great job of recognizing that. You know, they weren't really coming to double team at all, so I just got some good looks early and that kind of helped my confidence."
The BIG EAST's preseason Player of the Year added four points and a rebound in 10 minutes of play in the second half, finishing with a 28-point, five-rebound performance. Austin Chatman added four free throws in the second half to hit 10 points and finished as the only other Jay in double figures. With the end result secured long before the final buzzer, some of CU's reserves saw extended minutes. Will Artino, Zach Hanson and Geoff Groselle all made 4-of-5 attempts from the floor. Artino added a free throw to finish with nine points while the two others recorded eight points.
Butler actually won the second half 36-35 but never threatened. Dunham found a little more success in the second half, leading the Bulldogs with 12 points, while Khyle Marshall chipped in 11 points. Butler's 60 points was one more than their season low, and the Bulldogs had not given up more than the 88 points CU scored outside of their double-overtime loss to DePaul. The Jays' 5-0 start in the BIG EAST and the strong showing Tuesday have them feeling confident.
"If we are playing like we did in the first half there, I think we can play with just about anyone," said CU's leading scorer. "Butler's played a really tough schedule, they came down to the wire with Villanova, Oklahoma State. I think we sent a statement tonight, you know, that we're a great team, not just offensively, but on the defensive end of the floor as well."
McDermott's words will soon be put to the test. Creighton heads out for its second BIG EAST road trip for a Saturday night contest at Providence before heading to Philadelphia for Monday night's match up with conference co-leader, Villanova. With the Friars (11-5) and Wildcats (15-1) sitting between the Jays and sole possession atop the conference, Coach McDermott's team will likely need to play 80 minutes of quality basketball to return unbeaten.
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