NEW YORK (AP) The St. John’s Red Storm found a way to keep Creighton’s Doug McDermott from beating them a second time this season – they didn’t let him shoot for the final 8:40.
Without the nation’s leading scorer to turn to, the 12th-ranked Bluejays struggled offensively and the Red Storm came away with a 70-65 victory Sunday night, their sixth win in seven games. The only loss during that stretch came at Creighton two weeks ago.
”McDermott beat us last time,” St. John’s swingman Sir’Dominic Pointer said. ”Let someone else try and beat us this time.”
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Nobody stepped up for Creighton, but D’Angelo Harrison scored 19 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:08 to play, for St. John’s (15-9, 5-6 Big East).
”The game was still in hand and we got a big shot from a big player,” Pointer said before changing his description slightly. ”We got a great shot from a great player.”
McDermott matched his nation-leading average with 25 points for the Bluejays (19-4, 9-2), who had won 14 of 15 and were tied for first place in the conference with Villanova.
”They did a great job of taking me away,” McDermott said. ”I thought they did a great job of switching whenever I came off screens. They were really disciplined a lot more down the stretch, so you’ve got to give them credit.”
McDermott had 39 points when the teams met two weeks ago, including a long 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left for a 63-60 victory. The Bluejays led by 18 points with 12 minutes to play in that one and were barely able to escape with the win at home.
This time, the Red Storm stayed in front or at least close during the second half and Harrison put them ahead for good with a 3 that gave St. John’s a 65-63 lead.
Harrison made five free throws in the final 19 seconds to offset a drive by Devin Brooks.
”D’Angelo relishes having the ball in his hands at crunch time,” said St. John’s coach Steve Lavin, who got his 200th win in 11 seasons as a head coach – seven at UCLA and the last four with the Red Storm.
St. John’s started 0-5 in the Big East, and things were dire to say the least.
”I knew we would struggle but I didn’t think we’d start 0-5 in the league – maybe 2-3,” Lavin said. ”I have always thought we could keep getting better. … Another hurdle cleared that shows this team is maturing.”
The Red Storm did a tremendous job on defense. They held the Bluejays, who came in leading the league in scoring (81.2), field goal percentage (49.2) and 3-point percentage (42.8), to 41.1 percent from the field (23 of 56) and 22.7 percent from 3-point range (5 of 22).
Creighton hurt itself at the free throw line by making just 14 of 25 (56 percent), well below the 75.9 percent mark it had coming into the game.
”We’ve been a 75-76 percent free throw shooting team all year and we shot 56 percent tonight and shot 22 percent from the 3-point line, and we’ve usually been really good in that regard,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. ”Obviously, some of that credit goes to St. John’s. Their length certainly impacts your ability to shoot the basketball and get clean looks at the basket.”
This was the Bluejays’ first visit to the newest Madison Square Garden, where they will return next month for the Big East tournament. They have to hope they have a better offensive showing than this.
McDermott made his first four shots from the field, but the Red Storm didn’t allow him many looks from outside the 3-point line. Instead, he was down low calling for the ball almost all game.
”I’ve got to be a little more aggressive, too,” said Doug McDermott, a two-time All-America selection. ”I think I kind of went away from what I was doing to start the game and I’ve got to recognize that. That’s when we’re successful is when I’m moving without the basketball.”
After Creighton went on an 8-0 run to take a 47-46 lead with 13:45 to play, neither team led by more than three until the final 20 seconds. There were seven lead changes and five ties in that span.
Grant Gibbs had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Bluejays but was 3 for 7 from the free throw line.
Chris Obekpa tied his career high with 11 points for the Red Storm.