NEW YORK — The last time Doug McDermott played in Madison Square Garden, St. John’s held him without a shot for the final 8:40 of a rare Bluejays loss. When he took the Garden floor against DePaul in Thursday night’s quarterfinal, he made up for lost time, knocking down a three 13 seconds into the game.
It was just the start of a busy first half for the conference (and most likely national) Player of the Year, who broke Donyell Marshall and Billy Donovan’s shared Big East Tournament record of 26 points in a single half. Marshall’s mark had stood since 1994, while Donovan did his damage back in ’87, but both were eclipsed when McDermott’s seventh three gave him 27 with 1:07 remaining.
McDermott’s scorching twenty minutes could have actually been better, as he missed two free throw attempts (a rarity, as he was shooting 87% on the season coming into the game) and air-balled a three from the top of the key. He scored in a myriad of ways, dropping threes from all around the arc, both from half-court sets and on the break. He had his way with the DePaul defense on drives to the rim and when they sagged off he obliged by knocking down a turnaround just inside the foul line. When the halftime buzzer sounded, the score was DePaul 29, Doug McDermott 27. (His teammates chipped in another 22.)
"His teammates have done an incredible job of recognizing over the years when Doug is one of those zones," said Creighton head coach Greg McDermott after the game. "They're making the extra pass, and our screening activity for him was good."
McDermott was quieter in the second half, content to make the extra pass as the bottom-seeded Blue Demons never got closer than ten. DePaul was fresh off an upset of Georgetown the previous night and managed to stay within striking distance for a while but could not sustain the offense or get enough stops to ever truly threaten the Bluejays. McDermott went 4-for-8 in the second half and finished with 35 points, exiting the blowout with 4:31 remaining. There was no drama after his departure, with the final score settling at 84-62.
"As a kid you dream of playing in venues like this," said McDermott following his record-setting performance. "The Garden is about as good as it gets. I watched the tournament growing up a lot. You remember the Kemba moment, so many great games. So just to be a part of it definitely was in the back of my mind. And in warmups, it felt surreal out there."
Just how good is Creighton’s offense, highlighted by the shooting of the 6’8” McDermott, 6’7” Ethan Wragge and guard Jahenns Manigat? Per KenPomeroy.com, McDermott’s team is averaging 125.4 points per 100 offensive possessions, which is the best mark in a database of every college team going back to 2003.
What are some other Big East Tournament records for this week’s “Sports Illustrated” cover boy to potentially chase down?
Made threes in a tournament (19): Set by Syracuse’s James Southerland in four games last year, McDermott would surpass this by maintaining his current clip.
Made threes over three games (15): If Creighton makes the final on Saturday night, it seems safe to say McDermott could best this mark set by Notre Dame’s Pat Connaughton in 2013.
Made threes in a single game (8): It looked like McDermott was on his way to breaking the 1989 record of Boston College’s Dana Barros, but he only attempted one three in the second half. In a more competitive game, this record is very much in play.
Points in a tournament (130): This one is obviously a little ambitious, as it took Kemba Walker five games to accumulate the total during UConn’s title run in 2011, but considering McDermott dropped 45 against Providence last Saturday on his Senior Night, it’s not impossible.
McDermott and the Bluejays are back in action Friday night against the winner of Marquette and Xavier.