PHILADELPHIA -- Doug McDermott did what he does best, pouring in 27 points as seventh-seeded Creighton held on for a 67-63 victory over No. 10 seed Cincinnati on Friday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Now the Bluejays are just one win away from uncharted territory. While the school has had a few NCAA Tournament victories, Creighton has never had more than one win in any single NCAA Tournament.
Creighton moves on to face No. 2 seed Duke on Sunday in the third round.
"Really proud of my team," said Greg McDermott, Doug's father who's in his third year as head coach of the Omaha, Neb., school. "We've been shooting for this game for a year, wanting to get back to have an opportunity to play to get into the Sweet 16, and I'm proud of that we've gotten back to that point."
The younger McDermott showed why he's been one of the most productive players in college basketball this season, making 7-of-15 shots, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range. The 6-foot-8 Ames, Iowa, native made all 11 of his free throws and also had a game-high 11 rebounds.
Last year, as a No. 8 seed, Creighton won its tournament opener, 58-57, over Alabama before falling to North Carolina in the third round, 87-73. The Bluejays haven't made it to the Sweet 16 since 1974, when only 24 teams made the tournament.
The Bluejays led by as many as eight points with 8:39 remaining on McDemott's layup, but then went scoreless over the next four minutes as the Bearcats rallied to tie, 54-54, with 3:41 left on Sean Kilpatrick's jumper.
Greg Echinique restored Creighton's lead on a layup with three minutes to play, before free throws from McDermott and Austin Chatman pushed the advantage to six with a minute left.
Then things got interesting.
McDermott was whistled for a Flagrant 1 foul with 53.1 seconds left after inadvertently elbowing a Cincinnati player, but Shaquille Thomas missed both free throws.
"I was maybe a little too high with the ball," McDermott said. "Just probably a call you've got to make in that situation."
Kilpatrick then buried a 3-pointer from the left wing off the ensuing inbounds play to cut the gap in half.
Four Creighton free throws and two Cincinnati baskets meant it was still a three-point game with 24 seconds left when the Bearcats forced a jump ball. They gained possession and pulled to within one on Kilpatrick's layup with 15 seconds remaining.
Chatman then made two free throws, the second bouncing and rolling around the rim before dropping through, giving Cincinnati one final chance down by three points.
Kilpatrick dribbled around before launching an off-balance 3-pointer from the right wing. The shot missed and Cheikh Mbodj was called for traveling after pulling in the offensive rebound.
Chatman hit the second of two free throws for the final margin. Creighton as a team went 22 of 25 from the line while Cincinnati made just 4 of 9. The foul differential was 22 to 11 in the Bluejays' favor.
"They made 22 free throws, we made four. It doesn't matter who you play, you're not going to win if that happens," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "The physicality was one way."
Cincinnati hadn't lost its NCAA Tournament opener since 2005. After missing the tournament for the five years that followed, the Bearcats made it to the third round in 2011 and the Sweet 16 in 2012, but couldn't overcome Creighton.
Kilpatrick finished with 19 points to lead four Bearcats in double figures. Cashmere Wright had 15 points and six assists, Thomas added a career-high 12 and Titus Rubles added 11 points and eight rebounds.
A big part in the Bluejays' victory was the play of Echenique, who began his career at Rutgers before leaving the Big East for the Missouri Valley Conference back in 2010. The 6-foot-10 Venezuelan native had 13 points and seven rebounds, helping Creighton to a 32-31 advantage on the boards against a tough Bearcats front line.
"I took a lot of heat when I left Rutgers and went to Creighton," said Echenique, who lost 40 pounds and cut his body fat down to 8 percent since changing schools. "People questioned it, why would I leave a Big East team and all that...it's good to prove to people why I did what I did and how special a team we've got."
"He could not have played 28 minutes in a game as physical as this two and a half years ago when I first met him," said Greg McDermott. "I'm really proud of the player that Gregory has become."
Now Creighton looks ahead to Duke.
"We've been working for this moment since we lost to North Carolina last year," said Doug McDermott, who admitted that how his team fares in the tournament could have an impact on his decision whether to return for his junior season or declare for the NBA draft. "I think it's every kid's dream to get a chance to play against Duke in the NCAA Tournament."
Notes: Creighton has now won a postseason game in six straight years, which is a school record... McDermott raised his season point total to 813, breaking the school mark he set last season. ... Wright finished his career at Cincinnati as the only player in school history with 1,300 points, 475 assists and 175 steals, with school records for career games played (139) and steals (198)