Creighton's Doug McDermott (3) follows through on a 3-point basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against DePaul in the quarterfinals of the Big East Conference tournament on Thursday, March 13, 2014, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Doug McDermott leads the nation in scoring, and another dazzling shooting display could lead No. 14 Creighton to its first Big East title game.
A day after a record-breaking performance at Madison Square Garden, McDermott goes for another impressive showing against third-seeded Xavier in the conference semifinals Friday night.
McDermott is averaging 26.8 points on the season, but he’s been even better over the past two games, totaling 80 points and shooting 66.0 percent – including 12 for 17 from beyond the arc.
The senior forward’s latest effort was one for the record books, as he scored 27 of his 35 points in the first half while sinking six of his first seven 3-pointers to power the Bluejays (25-6) to an 84-62 win over 10th-seeded DePaul on Thursday. McDermott’s first half production was a Big East tournament record, and his final tally was the most by a player in his debut at this event.
"I was just feeling in the rhythm, in the zone," McDermott said. "I just happened to get going, and my teammates recognized that I had the hot hand."
That was also the case at home against Xavier (21-11) on Jan. 12, when he had 35 points while making 13 of 24 field goals to power a 95-89 victory. He could have used some help on the road versus the Musketeers on March 1, as he scored 27 but no other Creighton player reached double digits in a 75-69 defeat.
Austin Chatman was held to two points in that meeting, going 1 for 9 from the field and missing each of his three attempts from long range. The junior guard has bounced back in three games since, averaging 12.0 points on 14 of 22 shooting – 5 of 9 from 3-point range.
Chatman missed only one of his six field goals while finishing with 11 points and nine assists against the Blue Demons.
Jahenns Manigat is coming off his own impressive shooting display, connecting on 4 of 5 3-pointers on his way to 14 points Thursday. The senior guard totaled only 11 over the previous four games, including three while shooting 1 of 7 from beyond the arc at Xavier.
Although the Musketeers shut down McDermott’s supporting cast two weeks ago, their strategy this time is to limit the two-time All-American in an effort to reach the Big East final in their first season in the conference. A victory could also assure them of at least an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.
"We just shut him down. We don’t let him catch the ball or shoot a three," coach Chris Mack said. "I mean you just try your best, play as hard as you can. You try to deny his catches. You try to load to the ball. You try to contest his shots. And when you swallow a couple threes, you can’t think it’s the end of the world.
"He scored 3,000 points for a reason, but we beat him one time, we lost to him one time."
Xavier, though, has struggled defensively since beating Creighton, giving up an average of 71.0 points and 50.3 percent from the floor – 40.7 from long range.
The Musketeers overcame another subpar defensive effort Thursday, beating Marquette 68-65 despite allowing 57.8 percent shooting.
Semaj Christon had 18 points against the Golden Eagles, and he’s averaging 21.3 over the past four games. The sophomore guard had 21 versus the Bluejays earlier this month, and 27 against them in January.
Justin Martin has totaled 40 points in those meetings, and he had 19 Thursday.
The winner will face either eighth-seeded Seton Hall or No. 4 Providence on Saturday.