All-American Doug McDermott hit a game-winning jumper while being fouled with 4.9 seconds left in Creighton's 83-79 win over St. Joe's. (USA Today Images)
Creighton forward Doug McDermott is a pretty easy person to notice on the court.
He’s 6-foot-8, is one of the few players on every college basketball team that opts for the short sleeve shirt underneath his jersey and always sports a black brace on his left elbow.
By the way, he’s also got an incredibly smooth shooting stroke that has made him a first-team All-American in each of the past two seasons.
For a brief moment on Saturday night, Saint Joseph’s lost track of all those things and it cost the Hawks the game.
McDermott got free on a defensive miscue by St. Joe’s and delivered a 20-foot jumper with 4.9 seconds left while getting fouled to give Creighton the lead for good in an 83-79 win at Hagan Arena (see Instant Replay).
McDermott sank the free throw before Creighton (3-0) stole the ensuing in-bounds pass and hit a pair at the charity stripe to secure the win.
“Messed up on the assignment or switch. It just came down to the last shot,” said St. Joe’s freshman DeAndre Bembry, who led the Hawks with 20 points. “I started off on him. It was a down screen. I was supposed to stay with him but we ended up switching and he got an open shot.”
“We had miscommunication between everybody, so that’s everybody’s fault,” said Halil Kanacevic, who fouled McDermott on the jump shot. “It’s just one of those things where you can’t have that mental lapse from the top to the bottom on the team. It was a miscommunication and we need to work on that.”
Once the Hawks (2-1) moved out of place, it was simple catch and release for Creighton’s star.
“It was just a great look. (Grant) Gibbs made a great read. I saw that the bigs kind of miscommunicated on the screen and I was able to get open for a split second there and knocked it down,” said McDermott, who finished with 20 points and five rebounds. “It was really exciting.”
The Bluejays needed that shot after the Hawks had regained the lead with around a half-minute remaining in the game.
Trailing by one, St. Joe’s guard Langston Galloway rimmed a jumper off a screen. Teammate Ronald Roberts muscled his way for the offensive rebound and was fouled on a put-back attempt with 27.5 seconds left on the clock.
Roberts, a 66.9 free throw shooter a season ago, calmly stepped to the line and made both to give the Hawks a 79-78 lead.
“I think the biggest thing is Ron’s ability to go to the foul line. Go back on the numbers, his freshman and probably his sophomore year we had to take him out of the game in foul shooting situations,” St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli said. “For his work and (assistant coach) Dave Duda’s work, it’s really a tribute to his work ethic that he could walk to the line in that kind of situation, a pressure-packed game, and make those free throws.”
The Hawks shouldn’t have had to work so hard down the stretch. SJU had Big East newcomer Creighton on the ropes time and again on Saturday, but the Bluejays just kept coming.
St. Joe’s built a lead as large as 13 points in the first half before taking a five-point advantage into halftime. Out of the break, the Bluejays made a concentrated effort to get the ball to a previously bottled up McDermott and it worked. The senior was able to mix his game up in the paint and on the perimeter, while also dishing to a lethal Ethan Wragge (7 of 11 from three-point range).
McDermott was finally able to break through and gave Creighton its first lead since the game’s opening basket when he got an and-one layup during a Bluejays’ 8-0 spurt to silence the rowdy SJU crowd at the 10:41 mark.
“This is the toughest place to play that I think we’ve ever played at,” McDermott said. “Got to give the whole city credit, Philly. It’s just really exciting and we’re going to see a lot more of it [when we return to face Villanova].”
Both teams certainly made for an exciting game with the up-tempo pace and hot shooting (combined 51.3 percent from the field and 47.2 from three-point range).
Creighton kept firing after McDermott’s driving layup to build an eight-point advantage that appeared to be enough. However, the Hawks showed some resilience of their own.
Point guard Chris Wilson (18 points) drained one of his six threes with 1:09 remaining to pull St. Joe’s within a point prior to Roberts giving the Hawks back the lead on his pair of freebies.
Then the Hawks somehow lost the best player on the floor and the game.
“We came back, we fought back,” Kanacevic said. “This hurts. It’s a tough loss.”
St. Joe’s has an extended break before returning to action on Thanksgiving night in Orlando against LSU as part of the Old Spice Classic.