Two of the better front court players in the country met at CenturyLink Center in Omaha on Saturday, as Zeke Marshall led the Akron Zips into a contest with Doug McDermott and the No. 16 Creighton Bluejays.
By the end of the afternoon McDermott had put together a performance that backed up the preseason Player of the Year hype, scoring 30 points and grabbing six rebounds to lead Creighton to the 77-61 victory.
McDermott, who was MVC Player of the Year last season, made ten of his 15 shots from the field (including 6-of-8 from beyond the arc). Sunday’s performance was McDermott’s second game of at least 30 points this season, making him the seventh player to score 30 or more points in two games in 2012-13.
Marshall finished the game with 12 points and two blocked shots, and Nick Harney led the Zips with 14 points, but early foul trouble for both Harney and point guard Alex Abreu got Akron into trouble in the first half.
The Zips were able to pull to within three points late in the first half but an 11-3 Creighton run left them trailing by 12 at the break, 43-31. Akron turned the ball over just 11 times but Creighton was able to convert those miscues into 14 points, and the Zips couldn’t recover from either that number of Abreu’s 1-of-7 day from the field.
Gregory Echenique guarded Marshall for much of the afternoon and contributed ten points and seven rebounds. Grant Gibbs dished out another eight assists without a turnover, and for the season Gibbs has 66 assists to just nine turnovers. Regardless of what label gets placed on Gibbs, there’s no doubt that the Creighton offensive machine is extremely difficult to stop with him on the floor.
Obviously the same can be said of McDermott, who has scored 21 points or more in six straight games. And while the junior has always been capable of knocking down perimeter shots you’ll be hard-pressed to find a stretch where he’s shot better from three.
McDermott is 17-of-23 from beyond the arc in the last four games, and on the season he’s hitting those shots at a 53.2% clip. Add to that his field goal (55.1%) and free throw (85.2%) percentages, and McDermott is clearly one of the nation’s most efficient players.
But even with McDermott’s 30-point afternoon Creighton showed once again that it’s not a one-man team. And that’s going to make for a lot of long nights for the opposition as the season wears on.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.