NEW YORK (AP) — Doug McDermott is playing in New York City this week, just a few blocks from Broadway. And by the looks of it, he plans to put on a show.
The nation’s leading scorer delivered Thursday night with a dazzling shooting display in his Big East tournament debut, scoring a record 27 of his 35 points in the first half for No. 14 Creighton during an 84-62 victory over DePaul at Madison Square Garden.
“As a kid, you dream of playing in venues like this. The Garden is about as good as it gets. I watched the tournament growing up a lot,” McDermott said. “So just to be a part of it definitely was in the back of my mind. And in warmups, it felt surreal out there.”
The two-time All-America hit six of his first seven 3-point attempts, sending the second-seeded Bluejays (25-6) into the semifinals Friday night against third-seeded Xavier, which held off No. 6 seed Marquette 68-65.
Jahenns Manigat added 14 points for Creighton, which left the Missouri Valley Conference for the new-look Big East this season, and Austin Chatman had 11 points and nine assists. Led by McDermott, the league’s player of the year and a heavy favorite for several national awards, the Bluejays shot a sizzling 14 for 22 from 3-point range (63.6 percent) against 10th-seeded DePaul (12-21).
“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.”
Getting on that kind of roll is an incredible feeling, McDermott said.
“It feels like that hoop is huge. It just feels like everything’s going to go in,” he explained. “It’s one of those feelings where you just feel like you have all the energy and confidence in the world. It’s a feeling that is the best.”
Brandon Young had 22 points and eight rebounds in his final game for the last-place Blue Demons, who upset Georgetown 60-56 in the opening round Wednesday night.
“I didn’t think our energy level was as high as it was when we started the game yesterday. I guess that’s understandable playing a late game last night,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “We finally got our legs under us in the second half.”
McDermott shot 10 of 14 in the first half, including 7 for 9 from 3-point range. He finished 14 of 22 overall and 7 for 10 on 3s, easily surpassing his scoring average of 26.5 points, as Creighton went 32 for 53 (60.4 percent) from the floor.
The senior forward broke Big East tournament records for points in a half and points by a player in his debut at this event. He ended up one 3-pointer shy of the single-game mark set by Boston College guard Dana Barros in 1989.
No wonder he appears on the front of this week’s Sports Illustrated in a recreation of a 1970s cover photo that featured Larry Bird.
“There’s only going to be one Larry Bird,” McDermott said. “I try and watch a lot of film on him.”
When McDermott cooled off a bit in the second half, Chatman, Ethan Wragge and Avery Dingman helped the Bluejays pull away as chants of “C-U! C-U!” rang out in the Garden.
Creighton enjoyed boisterous support in the Big Apple – coach Greg McDermott, Doug’s father, said the school sold about 2,300 tournament tickets – and Bluejays fans who made the 1,240-mile trip from Omaha, Neb., were in for a treat.
McDermott, wearing his familiar No. 3, hit a bunch of them.
“Obviously, we have a heck of a following, as you all heard tonight, and that adds more fuel to our fire,” Greg McDermott said. “If that many people are going to make the trip halfway across the country to come and support us, we owe them a good effort.”
Doug McDermott wasted no time getting started, draining a 3 on the first shot of the game 13 seconds in. Manigat nailed three in a row from long range and McDermott followed with two more.
“It felt great. I think it’s about time,” Manigat said. “I wasn’t shooting the ball too well down the stretch there.”
McDermott spotted up on a fast break for another 3, then hit a long one from up top and sank his next one to give Creighton a 31-20 cushion with 6:48 left in the first half.
Manigat drained another 3, his fourth of the first half on five attempts, and McDermott had one more on a fast break before halftime. He also scored twice inside and, after Dingman hit a twisting layup with 5.7 seconds left, the Bluejays went into the locker room with a 49-29 advantage.
DePaul got back in the game with a 10-0 run early in the second half, but Creighton caught a break when an errant pass caromed off the side of the backboard right to Chatman for a 3-pointer from the corner. McDermott hit a bank shot inside and it was 65-50 with 8:19 remaining.