San Diego St.-Creighton Preview
Their status among the unbeatens is about to face perhaps its stiffest test yet.
McDermott and the No. 20 Bluejays go for a second straight 6-0 start Friday night when they attempt to overcome the stingy defensive play of San Diego State, a team looking to prove it still belongs among the elite.
Creighton (5-0) is certainly looking capable of matching last year's early season surge thanks to outstanding offensive play, which has helped it outscore opponents by 22.8 points per game.
They're averaging 91.2 points while shooting 53.5 percent from the floor, including 46.4 from beyond the arc. Creighton has hit at least 11 3-pointers in each game so far, and McDermott continues to be a catalyst.
The senior forward, selected the Big East player of the week for the second consecutive time, leads the team with 27.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. He kept the Bluejays rolling by scoring 27 points in Thursday's 88-60 win over Arizona State in the opening round of the Wooden Legacy.
They connected on 53.4 percent of shots from the floor - 12 of 25 from long range.
"I'm not sure we could play much better," said coach Greg McDermott, father of Creighton's star forward. "We were really good on both ends of the court. We took advantage of some mismatches early."
The Bluejays may need to be better since the Aztecs (3-1) allow just 50.8 points per game. They've held opponents to 32.9 percent shooting overall and 19.4 from beyond the arc while also forcing an average of 16.5 turnovers.
"Every day in practice our focus is defense," forward Winston Shepard said. "I would say practices are harder than the game. Most of the practices are defense. That's just a by-product of what we want to do."
The Aztecs, who have reached the NCAA tournament four straight years, dominated every facet of Thursday's 72-52 win over the College of Charleston, leading by as many as 25 points and limiting the Cougars to 33.3 percent shooting.
"We've got the capabilities of having a very good defensive team," coach Steve Fisher said. "I felt with the length, the athleticism and the depth, we have the ability to go to the bench and not lose a beat, and sometimes gain a step or two. And that's critical. We need to maintain that."
Another strong offensive effort from Shepard would also help San Diego State bolster its chances of cracking the top 25.
The sophomore forward had a season-high 15 points Thursday and is averaging 11.8 after getting 5.7 per game in a limited role last season.
Blue Jays guard Devin Brooks could be pivotal in helping Creighton solve the Aztecs' defense and create space for Doug McDermott.
The guard had a season-high 23 points while making 9 of 11 from the floor and all four of his 3s against the Sun Devils. He had that many points over the previous three games, and is averaging 12.2 on the season.
McDermott certainly doesn't mind sharing the scoring load.
"If teams are going to let him shoot and he hits those, he's going to be really hard to guard," he said. "We're so lucky to have him."
Creighton has won three of four meetings with the Aztecs, including an 85-83 victory most recently on Nov. 30, 2011.
The winner of this matchup will face either No. 25 Marquette - a new Big East Conference rival for Creighton - or George Washington in Sunday's championship game.