The louder the California fans cheered against him, the more Doug McDermott produced.
Their silence at the end indicated the damage the Creighton junior had done against the Golden Bears. McDermott finished with 34 points and nine rebounds in a 10-point Creighton victory.
More important, he hoisted the team on his back when Creighton was struggling to find an offensive rhythm. The Bluejays have seen him do that countless times before, but perhaps not with the same attitude that he had against California.
“It's good to see that he's getting a killer instinct,” Creighton guard Jahenns Manigat said.
That's a downright scary proposition for future Bluejay opponents. Few teams have found a way to slow down the All-America forward the past two seasons. That task could get exceedingly more difficult if McDermott attacks the game like a shark sensing blood in the water.
“The big games, the bright lights don't bother Doug,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It can be loud, it can be noisy, it can be directed at him, but he is just able to block all that out. The game slows down for him, and that's a great attribute to have.”
Doug McDermott doesn't necessarily think that his game is taking on a sharper edge, but he did admit he took special delight in quieting the California fans with a series of dazzling inside moves and dizzying outside shots.
“I will admit it's different when you're on the road and you get in a zone,” he said. “You want to take over like that. Not a lot of people know who Creighton is, so when we can go into a venue like that against a Pac-12 team and win, it sends a statement that we're for real.
“It's really cool to do that.”
The California game came just more than a year after he turned in perhaps his first signature performance as a Bluejay. Even though he led the team in scoring as a freshman, McDermott admits he would sometimes disappear when his team needed him.
“There were times when I was quiet offensively because I wasn't used to playing on the road,” McDermott said. “That's why that San Diego State game was so important. I think that might have been the biggest step in my career.
“I found out I was able to step up and put the team on my back.”
Six games into his sophomore season, McDermott scored 25 points in leading the Bluejays from a 17-point deficit to an 85-83 upset in a pressure-cooker atmosphere at San Diego State.
“When he was a freshman, we had a lot of seniors on the team, a lot of guys that had been in the program,” Greg McDermott said. “As the coach's kid, I think he was kind of feeling his way.
“I think the performance at San Diego State and the tenacity with which he played in that game sent a message to his teammates that he wasn't afraid to compete when the bright lights were on. I think that carried over into his play the rest of last year and into this year.”
Doug McDermott finished last season as the country's third-leading scorer. He became Creighton's first consensus first-team All-American and started this season a marked man.
After a slow start — by his standards — McDermott has been on a roll over the past seven games. He has scored 20 or more points in each game, and three times scored 30 or more. His performance against California encored the 30-point game he had against Akron and made him the first Creighton player in 22 years to register back-to-back 30-point games.
McDermott heads into Wednesday's home game against Tulsa third in the country with a 23.7 scoring average.
“I am playing the best basketball that I've played in a while,” he said. “It feels good to get the confidence going, and hopefully that can carry over into Tulsa and conference play.
“I don't want to take a step back. I want to keep building on what I'm doing, not just offensively but defensively and rebounding the basketball.”
McDermott's teammates are still amazed at the things he can do on the court. They deeply appreciate what he can do for the team, especially when the Bluejays find themselves in a fix like they did at California.
“Against Cal, our guards weren't cutting hard and our offense got a little stagnant,” Manigat said. “But we had an outlet by giving it to Doug. When he gets into a groove early, you see his eyes light up and he wants the ball.
“When he gets it going, you give him the ball and get out of the way.”
» NOTES: Tulsa is 6-4 under first-year head coach Danny Manning, the former Kansas All-American. ... An injury probably will keep Rashad Smith, who leads the Golden Hurricane with a 14.5 scoring average, out of Wednesday's game. ... Tulsa holds a 43-33 edge in the series, but Creighton has won the past two meetings, including an 83-64 victory at Tulsa last season. ... Creighton brings a 10-1 record into the game, and a victory against the Golden Hurricane would make this the first Bluejay team to post 11 wins before Christmas. ... Creighton's five starters each played at least 30 minutes against California. That marked the first time since a 2004 overtime loss to Drake that the starters each logged at least 30 minutes. The last time that happened in a non-overtime game was in 1992 against Siena.
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