All the good work St. John's put in rallying from an 18-point second-half deficit Tuesday night went to waste because of a defensive breakdown.
The Johnnies committed the one mistake they couldn't afford to make on Creighton's final possession: They somehow lost Doug McDermott.
Unaccustomed to defending the perimeter instead of the paint, St. John's center Chris Obekpa runs back to the paint on defense instead of matching up with McDermott at the 3-point arc. As a result, Obekpa was way too far away to recover when McDermott freed himself via an Isaiah Zierden off-ball screen, caught a pass from Jahenns Manigat and buried a tie-breaking 3-pointer from the deep right wing to propel Creighton to a 63-60 victory.
"It was a great read by Doug and a great read by 'Z,'" Manigat told the Omaha World-Herald after the game. "I think the screen is what's going to be overlooked here, but Isaiah made a great read. If he makes the wrong read, their guy would have been able to fight through it and challenge Doug."
McDermott's game winner adds to the unassailable national player of the year resumé he's gradually assembling. He sank 10 of 17 shots from inside the arc, buried 5 of 9 threes and finished with 39 points, more than half Creighton's scoring output for the game. He is now averaging 25.0 points per game this season.
The victory over St. John's certainly wasn't Creighton's most aesthetic performance of the season, but it keeps the Bluejays in first place in the Big East. At 18-3 overall and 8-1 in league play, they hold a half-game lead on second-place Villanova and they remain on track for a high seed in the NCAA tournament.