For about fourteen minutes in the second half against Louisiana-Lafayette, Creighton’s Doug McDermott did not score a basket. It seems incredible that a player nicknamed ‘Dougie McBuckets’ would be held scoreless for that long a time-frame, but ULL decided the way to stop the Bluejays’ insanely efficient offense was to concentrate on McDermott and allow his teammates to carry the team’s offensive load. It somewhat worked — with about twelve minutes remaining in the game, ULL led 50-46 — but McDermott was able to operate within the different defensive looks engineered to stop him, finish the game with 30 points, and help Creighton win their opening round game, 76-66.
This win is significant for two reasons. One, McDermott is always options 1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d on any scouting report, but UL-Lafayette attempted a strategy many others have tried (but few succeeded) against CU this season: plug the paint, shrink the halfcourt, and make the other Bluejays score. ULL began their run while McDermott was in the midst of his scoring drought, and CU struggled to find offensive rhythm among the other four players on the court.
But then Ethan Wragge erupted — the sharpshooting forward shot four of eight from beyond the arc (he made three in a row at one point in the final twenty minutes), and his scoring presence infused the other Bluejays with a sense of relief. It was noticeable how much freer the rest of the team played once Wragge began connecting from deep.
We must note that McDermott is now fifth all-time on the NCAA’s career scoring list, passing Harry ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly of Texas Southern to enter the top five. To reach the top spot, and bypass Pete Maravich, McDermott now has to average 112 points per game (and win the national title).
The second reason this first round win is crucial is that the team succeeded when their shooting was well-off. The squad made 61.2 percent of their twos and 39.1 percent of their threes — both outstanding percentages for any team not named Creighton — but there were times when CU appeared stagnant and struggled to connect, yet they somehow managed to weather ULL’s shifting defense and win.
Although his road to Arlington has been derailed, the loss gave the nation a chance to watch ULL guard Elfrid Payton, a player who was on the U19 team last summer but who is still somehow unknown. Payton’s defense on McDermott managed to slow the forward a bit, and while he was pressing to keep his team in the contest — both Shawn Long and Bryant Mbamalu were either in foul trouble (Long) or not find the bucket (Mbamalu) — he still finished with 24 points.
Creighton next takes on Baylor, a game that should be an interesting match-up for the ‘Jays. Baylor’s zone will likely be easily disassembled by the constantly moving Creighton offense, so does Scott Drew stick with zone? Or does he alternate man and zone? Another intriguing subplot is Creighton’s struggles on the defensive glass. They managed to grab 83.7 percent of the Ragin’ Cajuns’ misses, but ULL was able to secure some crucial additional possessions. Baylor is one of the nation’s best on the offensive glass, and that will likely be a focal point of their gameplan against Creighton.