At this point in the season the race for national Player of the Year has a clear frontrunner: Creighton senior forward Doug McDermott. One of the questions entering this season was how would McDermott and his teammates adjust to new surroundings, with Creighton making the move from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Big East. With three conference games remaining before the Big East tournament, it’s clear that neither McDermott nor his teammates have had much trouble adjusting.
McDermott and the Bluejays moved to 13-2 in Big East play with a tight 72-71 win over a Seton Hall team playing without starting guard Sterling Gibbs, who was suspended for the game by head coach Kevin Willard. Willard wasn’t thrilled with Gibbs’ attitude in preparation for Sunday’s game, and the decision made the Texas transfer the third Pirate to meet that fate this season with Brandon Oliver and Eugene Teague being the others.
With the loss of Gibbs, Seton Hall entered Sunday’s game shorthanded but they made no excuses, competing throughout and nearly leaving Omaha with the win. But McDermott proved to be too much, scoring 29 points and moving into tenth place on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list. McDermott’s now scored 2,917 points in his Creighton career, with the 3,000-point mark well within his sights.
Grant Gibbs added 16 points in the win, establishing a new season high. As a team Creighton shot 51% from the field and 8-for-15 from beyond the arc, but it was their plus-6 margin in points from the foul line that made the difference. Also of note in regards to the foul line is the fact that the Bluejays attempted 31 (making 20) to Seton Hall’s 15 (making 14).
The Pirates finished the game with four players scoring in double figures (Fuquan Edwin led the way with 21), but they couldn’t make the one play down the stretch to get over the hump. And that’s been the story of the season for Seton Hall, which has lost four conference games by one-point margins. Turn around those results and maybe Kevin Willard’s team is in the bubble conversation.
As for Creighton the win means that they maintain their one-game lead over Villanova atop the Big East standings, and with their sweep of the season series the Bluejays are well on their way to earning the top seed in next month’s Big East tournament. So while watching the younger McDermott’s individual exploits are fun, the fact of the matter is that there’s a lot left for Greg McDermott’s team to accomplish. And it certainly helps to have a player of Doug’s caliber leading the way.