Three thoughts while I watch the Highlight Reels from the Drake and Missouri State games over, and over, and over…
Don’t poke the bear. In essence, that’s what Action 3 News television sports director Chase Williams and broadcaster extraordinaire (and WBR contributor) Nick Bahe warned no one in particular Friday night. With the early minutes of Creighton’s road game at Missouri State proving a bit chippy and very physical, the gentlemen bringing the TV broadcast back to the living rooms and sports bars in Omaha proved prophetic. Be careful how physical you get with Doug McDermott, Bears; most of the time he excels in the face of such confrontation.
And so began what for our current purposes we’ll call The Showcase in Springfield.
McDermott scored 39 points in 33 minutes, setting the JQH Arena record and single-handedly pulling the Jays away from a game Bears team in the second half. McDermott missed just one shot in the second half, going 10-11 from the field, 3-3 from three-point range, and 5-5 from the free throw line. His 28 points in the second half were more than the entire Missouri State team combined (25). He also doubled up his own teammates during the second stanza, 28 to 14.
The Bears pressured McDermott and fellow frontcourt mate Gregory Echenique early and often. McDermott missed three of his first four field goal attempts. But from the 12:11 mark in the first half until the 4:13 mark in the second half, McDermott couldn’t miss. Seriously.
McDermott started the second half on a personal 18-5 scoring run that saw the Bluejays distance themselves from MSU. He made 14 consecutive shots at one point. The biggest applause among the Bears faithful in the second half came when McDermott finally missed. At that point, though, MSU fans had paid witness to the greatest player in recent Missouri Valley Conference history.
But why The Showcase in Springfield? Obviously, McDermott’s raw statistical output was incredible Friday night. But watch the highlight reel Max put together and it is clear that opposing coaches will think twice about popping in the DVD of McDermott’s performance against Missouri State.
Perfect low post position leading to lay ups. Baseline pull-up jumpers. Quick-release three-pointers from the top of the arc. Fade-away, fallback jumpers. Left-handed scoop shots in the lane. Dribble-drives against helpless defenders. Put-back tips in the paint. It was all on display against Missouri State.
And with Creighton the only nationally ranked team playing Friday evening, McDermott’s performance filled a need in Bristol. ESPN led the 10 p.m. SportsCenter broadcast with a quick highlight package of McDermott’s performance, complete with ridiculous shot chart detailing his performance in the second half. The Twitterverse succumbed to CU fans and national media folks singing his praises.
Focus on McDermott and Creighton’s offense all you want, but the Bluejays’ focus on improved defense is paying off. With most teams at or near the midway point of their seasons, it is interesting to see how Creighton’s defense against each foe compares to those teams’ season averages for points scored and shooting percentage.
Check out the table below.
FG% vs CU
Points vs CU
Only one team has outshot its season field goal percentage against the Bluejays. Boise State shot 60.4% in a win versus CU; the Broncos make 48.5% of their shots for the season. Indiana State shot 43.1% against CU; the Sycamores shoot 42.8% for the season, so the difference is less than 0.5%.
Additionally, only two teams outscored their season points per game average against the Bluejays. Boise State scored 83 against CU; they score 78.1 a game for the year. Wisconsin scored 74 against the Jays; the Badgers average 70.8 a game. Arizona State and Evansville both scored about their season average against the Jays, albeit in losses to CU.
On average, Creighton holds its opponents to a field goal percentage 4.23 points worse than their season averages. The Jays hold opponents to 7.37 points per game lower than their season per game scoring averages, too.
So far in 2012-2013, Creighton’s in the top 100 nationally in points allowed per game (61.7 ppg; 76th) and field goal percentage defense (39.6%; 56th). Those are major improvements compared with last season, when CU was 244th in points allowed per game and 222nd in field goal percentage defense.
Take away our primary and secondary point guards’ shooting woes, and the Jays shot nearly 73% from the field. Austin Chatman (0-7 from the field; 0-4 from three-point range) and Grant Gibbs (0-3 from the field) struggled shooting the ball against Missouri State. And while the Bears seemed intent on not letting McDermott and Echenique beat them at the outset (how’d that work out?), open misses by Chatman and Gibbs left the game close for most of the first half.
But take those 10 field goal attempts out of the equation for a minute, and factor in Doug’s near perfect night, and the Jays were on fire. CU finished the evening making with a 57% field goal percentage. Aside from McDermott’s 15-19 performance, Echenique (2-3), Jahenns Manigat (4-6), Nevin Johnson (1-2), Ethan Wragge (1-2), Avery Dingman (2-3), and Andre Yates (2-2) all made at least half of their attempts from the field.
Manigat hit some timely shots against the Bears, picking up some of the scoring slack for backcourt teammates Chatman and Gibbs. Manigat’s 11 points left him the only other Bluejay beside McDermott to finish in double figures, and it marked the latest solid effort during a nice seven-game streak for the junior. Starting with his outstanding effort against Cal in mid-December (11 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds in the win), Manigat has scored 11 or more points in four of seven games. He has made 17 of his last 27 three-point attempts (63%) after starting the season 8-29 (27.5%) from long range. After committing 13 turnovers in the first four games of that stretch, Manigat has settled down and turned the ball over just twice in the last three games.
And Johnson proved to be a spark off the bench in the first half, translating that effort into a career-high 13 minutes after playing 12 against Drake earlier in the week. Johnson’s three-pointer with just under 4 minutes to play in the first half gave Creighton a 26-25 lead, one the Bluejays wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the night. And although he didn’t score in the second half, Johnson had nice dimes on a dunk by Echenique and a jumper by Yates.