SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Doug McDermott deserves plenty of credit for the second-half scoring explosion that carried Creighton to a 22-point win Friday at Missouri State.
Equally important was the subtle defensive change that stymied the Bears in the final 20 minutes and allowed the Bluejays to take full advantage of McDermott’s 28-point flurry.
Creighton’s switch from its man-to-man defense to a triangle-and-two limited Missouri State to 25 points in the second half of the 74-52 decision. The Bears scored five points in the first 7½ minutes, while McDermott had 18 of his arena-record 39 in that same span.
“We had practiced it the last couple of days,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “But we decided to do it on a whim. We didn’t even talk about it at halftime. I yelled to go to it just before play started in the second half.”
The triangle-and-two had the Bluejays’ two best on-ball defenders — Jahenns Manigat and Austin Chatman — playing man-to-man against Missouri State’s Anthony Downing and Nathan Scheer. The Bluejays’ other three players — McDermott, Gregory Echenique and Grant Gibbs — packed the inside in a triangle zone.
Missouri State changed its starting lineup for the second half, going with 6-foot-2 guard Dorrian Williams instead of 6-7 forward Christian Kirk.
“We felt like they only had two shooters on the floor,” McDermott said. “Our guys executed it well.”
Missouri State coach Paul Lusk acknowledged Creighton’s gimmick defense created problems for his offensively challenged team. The Bears came into the game last in the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring at 59.8 points per game.
“They came out and just didn’t guard some guys in the second half,” Lusk said. “They were really on top of Nate and AD. That was a smart adjustment on their part with our motion in the first half.
“When they switched defenses, that kind of threw us out of rhythm.”
McDermott sets record
McDermott outscored Missouri State in the second half 28-25 in establishing a JQH Arena scoring record.
His 39 points were tied for 13th most in program history, and he joined Bob Portman and Benoit Benjamin as the only Creighton players to have multiple games of 39 points or more. McDermott established his career high last season by scoring 44 points against Bradley.
He might have had a chance to better that, but his father pulled him from the game with 3:10 to play.
“You can blame him,” said Doug in mock disgust.
Greg McDermott said he didn’t even know how many points his son had scored at that point.
“We don’t want anyone getting hurt in a 20-point game,” the coach said. “And we have other guys that want to get out on the floor when they have the opportunity. It never crossed my mind to keep him in.”
Stellar ‘D’ from Manigat
Manigat provided support for McDermott by scoring 11 points, but it was his defensive work against Downing that drew raves from his coach.
Downing, Missouri State’s lone senior, averaged 20 points in the Bears’ first four Valley games and brought a team-leading 14.6 scoring average into the game. He finished Friday’s game with 10 points, missing 7 of his 11 shots from the field after shooting 70 percent in the Bears’ previous two games.
“I thought Jahenns did a great job on Anthony,” Greg McDermott said. “He (Downing) is playing as well as any guard in the league right now, and Jahenns really made his looks and his catches difficult.”
Manigat credited Creighton assistant Steve Merfeld with a detailed scouting report that helped him in his assignment.
“Coach Merfeld had him scouted out to perfection, and he had me come in and watch some extra film to see what he likes to do best and where he likes to catch it,” Manigat said. “My job as a defender is just to try to take that away as much as I can.
“And with guys that are playing as well as he is, it’s not a one-man effort to stop him. It was a total team effort. Any time I got lost, I had guys behind me ready to challenge his shot. And when I was on the bench, guys like Nevin Johnson and Avery Dingman came in and did a tremendous job on him.”
Marshall missed by MSU
Missouri State played without guard Marcus Marshall, the Bears’ second-leading scorer (10.1 average) as well as the top-scoring freshman in the Valley.
Marshall came down with the flu Thursday. He also was nursing a sprained ankle suffered in Tuesday’s win over Illinois State.
Lusk said the Bears not only missed Marshall’s scoring but also his playmaking abilities.
“We had to start Anthony at the point, and he’s not a point guard,” Lusk said. “There were times when we only had one guy out there that could handle (the ball), and that’s a big problem.”
Bits and pieces
The win was just Creighton’s second in the last eight meetings with Missouri State but was the Bluejays’ sixth away from home this season. It’s the first time since the 1942-43 season that Creighton has won its first six games away from home. ... Creighton finished 9 of 17 (52.9 percent) from 3-point range. Missouri State came into the game 18th nationally in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (.301) and had been limiting teams to 4.6 3-pointers per game. ... Doug McDermott passed Nate Funk and moved into sixth place on Creighton’s all-time scoring chart. McDermott has 1,783 points and moved from 36th to 30th on the Valley’s all-time chart. ... Creighton is off to a 5-0 start in league play for the first time since the 2002-03 season and for the third time since rejoining the Valley in 1977. ... Creighton’s largest previous win in Springfield was a 14-point decision in 2000.
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