McDermott grows from ‘nice’ to dominant
SAN ANTONIO (AP) Four years ago, Louisiana-Lafayette coach Bob Marlin walked off the floor after a close loss at Creighton and reviewed the box score.
There in black and white was Doug McDermott’s stat line: 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting to go with six rebounds in the freshman’s third career game.
”A coach’s son,” Marlin said to an assistant. ”He’s going to be a nice player.”
What an understatement.
When No. 3-seed Creighton (26-7) and No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette (23-11) meet again Friday in the second round of the West Regional, Marlin will see up close how that ”nice player” has grown into a one of the country’s most prolific scorers and a top contender for just about every national player of the year award as a senior.
McDermott’s scoring average of 26.9 points leads the country and his 3,105 career points rank fifth in NCAA history. Just this season, he has scored at least 22 points in 13 straight games and has topped 30 12 times. Three victories came on his game-winning shots.
That’s pretty much all Marlin has to know.
”I’m scared to look at the scouting report. The numbers are piling up in my head,” Marlin said. ”But the things he’s accomplished and coming back to school for his senior year, being the player that he’s become, it’s a good story for college basketball.”
The McDermott family journey at Creighton has become one of THE stories of the tournament. For coach Greg McDermott and his son, the tournament is their last chance to win a championship.
Greg McDermott expected their partnership to end last season, but Doug surprised his dad returning for his senior season instead of jumping to the NBA.
”We made a pact we would enjoy this (season),” Greg McDermott said. ”I’ve really forced myself to step back and really enjoy the opportunity I have as a parent, coaching aside, to watch what he’s done.”
Greg McDermott said he knows the duo will break up sometime in the next three weeks, whether it’s an early-round loss or not until after the championship game. The coach and father said he’s ready for that moment.
”I don’t think I’ll shed a tear when that happens. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to coach him this year,” Greg McDermott said. ”It’s been an experience that I wish every parent could experience. It’s been an incredible ride.”
Here are five things to know about Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Creighton
BIG GAME JITTERS: Louisiana-Lafayette’s players have no experience with the NCAA tournament but their coach does. Marlin spent 12 seasons at Sam Houston State and led the Bearkats to the tournament in 2003 and 2010. Both trips were quick one-and-done experiences for him.
Ragin’ Cajun players say their regular season, which included games at Arkansas, Baylor and Louisville (all double-digit losses), prepared them for this. Junior guard Elfrid Payton also noted his experience last summer as a starter for the Team USA that won the Under-19 world championship. While Marlin said McDermott’s stat line keeps him away at night, his players said they’ve had no trouble getting comfortable in whirlwind environment of the tournament.
”Yeah, we were excited when we first got on the plane,” senior guard Bryant Mbamalu said. ”But it’s a plane ride, so we were going to naturally fall asleep.”
LONG-RANGE SPECIALIST: Doug McDermott is the focus of attention at Creighton, but Ethan Wragge is the player who can put a game away with the right shot – and almost all of them came from way outside. Wragge is a 6-foot-7 3-point specialist who averages 10.5 points on 47 percent shooting on 220 attempts from beyond from the arc. The Bluejays’ second-leading scorer, Wragge rarely even bothers to step inside to shoot. He’s attempted only seven two point baskets all season, making two. His last 57 baskets have been 3-pointers.
”We thought we played some teams that could shoot the basketball,” Marlin said. ”And now we get Creighton.”
ALL EYES ON MCDERMOTT: A challenge for Louisiana-Lafayette will be to not get caught up watching McDermott shoot and score. Marlin acknowledged it would be easy for his team to spend 40 minutes ball watching instead of playing the game.
”We’ve got to stay in the moment,” Marlin said. ”We know Doug’s a great player … but it’s five-on-five and we’re going to go out and try to do the best we can to shut down their entire team.”
SPECIAL SENIORS: Creighton has an experienced lineup looking for a deep tournament run. The Bluejays start four seniors and bring the kind of maturity most teams would love to have in March. ”We grind and don’t take things for granted,” Wragge said. ”It’s helped us win a lot of close games this year.”
LOOKING FOR PERFECTION: So how exactly does a No. 14 seed beat a No. 3 seed with the top scorer in the country? Louisiana-Lafayette senior guard Elridge Moore has an answer.
”We make all our shots,” Moore said. For the record, the Ragin’ Cajuns’ topped 60 percent shooting twice this season in wins over Centenary and South Alabama.