When the buzzer sounded at CenturyLink Center Omaha following Creighton's 82-72 victory over Tulsa, Doug McDermott chased down the ball and went to the free throw line and shot one last attempt.
McDermott swished the meaningless shot. Moments earlier, however, he split a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left. McDermott made 12 of his 15 attempts from the charity stripe, which is right around his season average. The rest of the Jays did not fare so well, shooting 3-13 from the charity stripe. Freshman Zach Hanson missed all three of his attempts; Devin Brooks made just one of his four tries, and Austin Chatman hit one of three. Although missed free throws allowed the Golden Hurricane to keep the game close, CU head coach Greg McDermott isn't too worried about his team's composure at the line.
"I'm not overly concerned because it is good shooters that are missing free throws," said McDermott. "Guys that have been… Doug missed three, Austin missed two, Devin has been shooting it good all year long. But we're going to have to step up and knock them down because free throws -- they've always been a big part of the game -- but never as big a part of the game as they are today with the new emphasis on some contact rules."
Although McDermott scored a game-high 33 points, 21 of those came after halftime. With McDermott slow out of the gates, opening the game 0-4 from the field, Chatman stepped up and shouldered the scoring load. With the game tied at six more than five minutes into the game, Chatman scored seven straight points for the Jays.
"I just kind of got to get what comes at me, I guess," said the point guard. "He was sagging off me a little bit, so I put the first one up, and it fell. So after that, it felt good."
The junior floor general got his first triple to go when Avery Dingman passed on a good shot for a great one after a Devin Brooks drive. Chatman struck again with 1:39 left in the opening half when McDermott found him behind the arc. The Texan topped off his 15-point half with another 3-pointer. The final trifecta gave the Jays a 42-41 lead with just seven seconds left in the half.
"He was huge," McDermott said of his teammate's first-half performance. "When Austin's hitting threes, it just opens up the whole floor for us. Sometimes, somehow, teams are sagging off of him. He shoots it at such a high percentage, so it makes our jobs a lot easier inside."
McDermott assisted on one of Chatman's scores, but may be responsible for more of the point guard's scoring output. Coach McDermott believes teams are opting to back off Chatman when they bring addition help to contain his son. Tulsa head coach Danny Manning confirmed Coach Mac's suspicions.
"You got to make your game plan, and you got to take something away and you got to give something up," said Manning. "It kind of ebbs and flows. He walked into a couple shots and knocked them down. The one at half was on me, because I said we wanted to play a little bit softer, and he launched one kind of deep and it went in. "
The former Kansas great and NBA veteran complimented CU's starting point guard in areas other than his shooting.
"He's a talented player. He's the engine that makes this team go in terms of pushing the ball in transition and distributing the ball," said the Golden Hurricane coach.
Chatman added four points in the second half, finishing with a career-high 19. The second-year starter dished out five of his game-high nine assists after the break. McDermott was the main beneficiary. He hit three of six attempts from deep, two of which came in an early second-half run that pushed the lead to double figures, and scored 21 second-half points. The two-time All-American dropped 33 points on the night, but his 15 rebounds also played a large role in the victory. Attacking the glass is of more importance to one of the leading National Player of the Year candidates, especially considering the Jays can no longer rely on Gregory Echenique.
"You know, last year, I tended to leak out a little because I knew Gregory would get every board around the rim, so I was a little more flexible to get out in transition and run a little more," said the Jays' leading scorer. "This year, I think I'll definitely have to step up and rebound a lot more."
McDermott and Chatman were the only two Jays to score in double figures. Will Artino scored Creighton's first four points but finished with just eight, while Jahenns Manigat hit a pair of timely second-half 3-pointers, giving him six points.
Rashad Smith shot 9-14 from the field and scored 21 points for Tulsa, while Pat Swilling Jr. hit four triples and finished with 18 points.
One aspect of the game Coach McDermott was not thrilled with was his team's transition defense. The Golden Hurricane scored 14 fast-break points to the Jays' 10. Creighton was also whistled for numerous blocking fouls on the break, which led to a couple three-point plays for Manning's squad. The CU coach isn't yet sure if they'll change the way they defend fast breaks, but he is certain they'll need to improve before a big game on Thursday.
"Our defense has to get better," said McDermott. "There is no question we're going to see a legitimate top 20 team on Thursday in Arizona State. We will have to play better than we did today on the defensive end of the floor."
The Thanksgiving night matchup will give the Sun Devils a change for revenge after last year's 87-73 loss to Creighton in Las Vegas. The good news for Arizona State is that Jahii Carson returned for his sophomore campaign. Carson dropped 30 on the Jays last season. The Bluejays hit 19 of 25 free throws against Herb Sendek's squad a year ago, a feat Coach McDermott is repeated.
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