The Creighton men’s basketball team won their 11th straight game and improved to 17-1 on the season, 6-0 in Missouri Valley play, with a hard-fought 79-68 victory over the visiting Northern Iowa Panthers (9-9, 2-4 MVC).
Junior forward Doug McDermott led all scorers with 31 points for the Jays, while senior guard Anthony James paced UNI with 25 points.
Northern Iowa’s gameplan was to make things as difficult as possible for McDermott. After hitting the first shot of the game, UNI really buckled down on the national player of the year candidate. Ben Jacobsen, head coach for the Panthers, sent double teams at McDermott when he caught the ball in the post, and they ran him off the three-point line when he caught it out there.
The plan was executed in the first ten minutes of the opening half as McDermott was one for five from the floor, and Creighton trailed the Panthers for the first 13 minutes of the game. Creighton, ranked as high as 10th by the coaches entering the game, never panicked. That was probably due to them expecting UNI to come out and do exactly what they did to start the game.
“We knew that’s the way it was going to be coming in. That’s just the way they play,” said McDermott. “They are a really physical team. They like to grind it out. It was a tough battle there.”
With McDermott being bottled up and UNI jumping out to an early lead, someone else needed to step up for Creighton. The first man up was sophomore point guard Austin Chatman hitting back-to-back threes to bring Creighton within four points with 13:57 remaining until halftime. After a jumper by UNI senior forward Jake Koch, Chatman found junior forward Ethan Wragge in the corner for a three. After a bucket by James, Chatman again found a shooter on the wing. This time it was Avery Dingman cashing one in from long range to cut Northern Iowa’s lead to 18-16 with 10:27 to go in the first half.
Next up for the Jays were junior guard Jahenns Manigat and senior guard Grant Gibbs. Manigat created a UNI turnover and turned it into a layup to tie the game. Layups by Koch and James moved UNI’s lead back to four, then Gibbs hit sophomore center Will Artino on a backdoor alley-hoop. On the next possession after a media timeout Manigat found Gibbs cutting to the corner, and the senior buried a three to give the Bluejays a 23-22 with 7:05 left before halftime. Creighton never trailed the rest of the game. Doug McDermott got going shortly after, scoring eight points to finish out the half and give Creighton a 37-32 at halftime.
Northern Iowa got within 45-41 three minutes into the second half, but McDermott flipped the switch back on and scored 21 of Creighton’s final 34 points, including a thunderous, two-handed slam dunk while getting fouled after the Jays broke UNI’s full court press. The dunk brought what was left of the sold-out crowd to their feet, and was the icing on the cake for a tough win by the Creighton Bluejays.
McDermott Blows by Korver
McDermott needed 19 points in tonight’s game to pass former Creighton legend Kyle Korver for fifth-place on the school’s all-time scoring list. The junior forward scored 31 points as he continues his ascension through the scoring charts.
When asked after the game about what it’s like to pass a former great, the 21-year-old stated, “it’s surreal, to be honest. I’m already a junior, but it feels like it’s gone by so fast. It’s a pretty cool accomplishment, but I’m not worried about that, I’m just worried about Wichita [State] now.”
His head coach and father, Greg McDermott, coached against Korver and the Jays while he was the head coach at Northern Iowa.
“Obviously I had my tail kicked by Kyle quite a number of times when I was at Northern Iowa. I have tremendous respect for Kyle, and he’s still a very important part of our program. It’s really, as Doug said, somewhat surreal to think that your son has passed someone that is so well thought of in Creighton basketball history as Kyle.”
McDermott now sits just 63 points away from passing Bob Portman for fourth place on the school’s all-time list. He is 303 points away from breaking Rodney Buford’s all-time scoring record of 2,116 points. The Bluejays will play at least 15 more games this season, which means McDermott will need to average 20.2 points over those 15 games to break the record this season. He already has 13 20-point games this season, and 43 for his career.
17-1 Best Start in School History
With the win over Northern Iowa, Creighton improved to 17-1 on the season. That is the best start in school history. Entering the game, the 2012-13 Team was just the third team in school history to start a season 16-1. Now in his third season as head coach at Creighton, Greg McDermott reflected a bit on what brought them to this point.
“Obviously we’re thrilled to be where we are. I couldn’t be more proud of my team, my staff, and the support we’ve received from the fans and from our administration to allow us to be able to put together an organization like this. I’m very proud of what has transpired, but the reality of it is we’re only two-thirds through our season. We have a ways to go, and we’re going to get everybody’s best shot. Hopefully we can finish as well as we started.”
The Rivalry Resumes
Creighton’s next challenge will be this Saturday, January 19as they hit the road to resume their heated rivalry with the Wichita State Shockers. The Shockers, despite being decimated by injuries, are currently 15-2 on the season, including a 10-0 mark at home. Wichita State is expected to have senior forward Carl Hall back from a thumb injury in time for the game against Creighton. He was leading the Shockers in scoring and rebounding before the injury sidelined him. In his absence, junior college transfer Cleanthony Early has emerged as a go-to guy for the team, averaging 19.4 points per game since Hall’s injury.
With the type of athleticism and energy the Shockers play with, it will be a formidable challenge for this Creighton squad, “they’re very athletic, they force a lot of turnovers, and they’re a great rebounding team,” said coach McDermott. “It’s going to take a great effort on our part Saturday, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Junior guard Jahenns Manigat has been drawn the toughest defensive assignments throughout the season, and he says his team will have to be ready for any challenge Early, Hall and Wichita State may present.
“Cleanthony Early has been presented as their go-to guy because Carl Hall’s been out, but they are a well-balanced team. The scoring is going to come from different guys and we have to be ready for that. [Cleanthony] kind of reminds me a lot of Doug the way he gets his points around the rim, and he’s able to step out and knock down threes, so you have to be ready for him on every possession. I’m sure the coaching staff has watched more tape than I have, obviously, I hope so, and they’re going to come with a scouting report that we have to follow.”
The game between Creighton and Wichita State is set for a 3:00 p.m. tip-off from Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas.
Northern Iowa / Creighton
Score: 68 / 79
FG/FGA/FG%: 29-59 (49.2%) / 31-56 (55.4%)
3FG/3FGA/3FG%: 4-15 (26.7%) / 6-12 (50.0%)
FT/FTA/FT%: 6-6 (100.0%) / 11-14 (78.6%)
Rebounding: 27 (Off: 7, Def: 20) / 31 (Off: 8, Def: 23)
Assists: 13 / 21
Turnovers: 13 / 13
Steals: 9 / 4
Blocks: 2 / 2
Scoring Leaders: James (25) / McDermott (31)
Rebounding Leaders: James (6) / Gibbs (6)
Assists Leaders: James, Mitchell (3) / Gibbs (7)
Steals Leaders: James (3) / Manigat (2)
Blocks Leaders: Koch, Sonnen (1) / Echenique, Artino (1)