There is a different aura to Creighton basketball this season. Part of it has to do with the team’s great start, including notching a few non-conference road wins. Another part is the sense that the Bluejays are playing unselfish basketball. The stats back those feelings up.
Creighton enters Thursday night’s game against Northwestern leading the nation in assists, averaging 20.7 per game. In their game against Campbell this season the Bluejays had 30 assists on 38 baskets. The 30 assists was a CenturyLink Center record. The team’s 207 assists thus far on 312 field goals is a pretty nice statistic.
Meanwhile, Doug McDermott continues to roll along scoring points in bunches. He recorded 20 or more points in his last 9 games, including a career-high 35 points against Tulsa on Monday night. Against the Golden Hurricane he seemed to be hitting shots from everywhere on the court — literally. His turnaround, NBA-range three pointer as the shot clock expired during one possession put the cherry on top of an amazing night.
McDermott would not be able to do what he does without the help from his teammates. McDermott has 102 field goals this season. Two-thirds of those baskets have come from an assist by a Creighton teammate. Against Campbell, all 13 of McDermott’s made baskets had an assist to go along with it. Outside of the season opener against North Carolina A&T, McDermott has had at least half of his baskets that included an assist. A lot of discussion last season was the lack of the guards’ ability, especially the wings, to get the ball into the post. It is a completely different story this season, and fans can trace the changes to the addition of Grant Gibbs to the lineup.
While McDermott does shine and experience accolades for his scoring abilities, it is the addition of Gibbs that is making the impact. Gibbs leads the team with 59 assists on the season. Amazingly enough, 34 (or 58%) of those assists have gone to baskets by McDermott. That means that of the two-thirds of McDermott’s baskets that have an assist, Gibbs accounts for half of those by himself. With an assist from John Templon of nycbuckets.com, here is the breakdown of Doug McDermott’s total field goals, those that were assisted, and how many of those were by Gibbs that particular evening.
Opponent McDermott FG's # That had assists Assists by Gibbs
North Carolina A&T 5 4 1
Chicago State 10 5 2
UAB 11 6 5
Iowa 10 6 3
Campbell 13 13 5
San Diego State 9 6 3
Nebraska 9 6 1
St. Joseph's 10 7 3
Houston Baptist 9 7 4
Tulsa 16 9 7
Just looking at this table, you could see right away the games McDermott struggled in or when Creighton struggled. The first game of the season was his worst as he was saddled with foul trouble early. That limited his minutes and scoring, and of course, assists from Gibbs. Against Nebraska, the game was close throughout and although McDermott scored his points, he wasn’t getting assists from Gibbs which could have broken the game open.
On the other hand, against UAB, Gibbs assisted on 5 of McDermott’s 6 assisted baskets in a game that was close throughout. On McDermott’s career night on Monday, Gibbs had 7 of his 9 assisted baskets.
What this shows is the importance of Gibbs on the court this season. He is on the court when McDermott is on the court. Their minutes per game are almost identical (28.9 to 28.6). Combine that with Antoine Young’s 27.7 minutes a game and you have a three-headed monster with McDermott reaping the benefits.
If the ball gets down to the amazing sophomore, whether by Gibbs or Young or anyone else, and McDermott can quickly score, there is nothing anyone can do. The assists tell the story.