Doug McDermott doesn't believe there is any bad mojo that comes with gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, and his performance in Creighton's 84-62 BIG EAST quarterfinal win over DePaul proved as much.
The conference's Player of the Year, which was announced Wednesday, opened with a 3-pointer 11 seconds into the game and scored the Jays' first five points.
"No, I do not believe in it," McDermott definitively stated when asked about the "jinx."
The initial outburst was just the start. McDermott reached double figures less than seven minutes into the game and toppled 20 with 6:53 left in the first half. By the end of the opening 20 minutes, McDermott had set a new BIG EAST Tournament record for points in a half with 27, passing Billy Donovan and Donyell Marshall's mark of 26.
"I see the guy who wants the ball when he's in the zone," Coach McDermott said of his star. "His teammates have done an incredible job of recognizing over the years when Doug is in one of those zones."
McDermott added eight points in the second half to finish with a game-high 35. Whatever defense the Blue Demons brought, McDermott managed to counter it,
"He's a good player, and you have to pick your poison," said DePaul coach Oliver Purnell. "Some nights, Georgetown a week or two ago, he goes 9-for-22, and that's what you want. That's a good night."
McDermott, much to Purnell's disappointment, was his usual efficient self, making 14-22 from the field, including 7-of-10 from deep. McDermott's seven triples set a new career high, and he was one short of tying Dana Barros's tournament record.
"It feels like the hoop is huge. It just feels like everything is going in," McDermott explained after the game.
The hoop didn't exactly shrink for his teammates, either. At the end of the game, Creighton's 3-point shooting percentage was higher than its overall field goal percentage and free throw percentage. Ethan Wragge sank 2-of-3 from deep, and Jahenns Manigat buried 4-of-5 from deep. The Canadian Red Bull struggled from deep in the games leading up to the tournament, but followed the advice of his coaches to correct it.
"My coaching staff kept telling me ‘If you're open, if you're comfortable, let it fly', " said Manigat. "I came in with that kind of mindset today. I didn't want to let the past poor games be a distraction or discourage me from shooting good shots for our team."
Manigat started the game with a miss from three on CU's second possession but connected on his next three tries from afar. Manigat scored nine points in the first 5:07 of action, catapulting the Jays to an early 14-6 lead. Manigat and McDermott teamed to score the Jays' first 23 points. There was less than nine minutes remaining before half when Austin Chatman became the third Bluejay to score. Creighton entered intermission with a 49-29 advantage behind McDermott's 27 and Manigat's 12.
DePaul started the second half strong, cutting the lead to 10 with 11 minutes to play, but Creighton quickly rebuilt a 20-point advantage. Although CU never let the Blue Demons within single digits, Coach McDermott still wasn't thrilled with the way his guys approached the second half.
"Second half, I thought we were a little tentative," Coach Mac said. "I thought we played a little more not to lose than playing to win. I would have liked to have seen us throw that knockout punch the first five minutes of the half."
At the end of the night, Doug McDermott reigned as king of the court. It's been a crazy couple of days for the senior from Ames, Iowa. In addition to his SI cover and Player of the Year awards, McDermott checked off a third childhood dream off the list Thursday night.
"As a kid, you dream of playing in venues like this," McDermott said. "The Garden is about as good as it gets. I watched the tournament growing up a lot. You remember the Kemba moment, so many great games. So just to be a part of it was definitely in the back of my mind."
With the win, McDermott and the Bluejays advance to the semi-finals, where they'll face the winner of Thursday's late game between Marquette and Xavier.
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