PHILADELPHIA — Creighton coach Greg McDermott is no fan of the NCAA’s emphasis on enforcing flagrant fouls this season.
He would have become even less of one had the one called Friday on his son wound up costing the Bluejays a victory in their second-round tournament game against Cincinnati. The Bluejays survived the last-minute call against Doug McDermott but had to sweat out some anxious moments before securing a 67-63 victory.
In an effort to improve player safety, the NCAA has said any contact with an opponents’ head, whether inadvertent or not, will be ruled a flagrant one technical foul. Doug McDermott was called for one with 53 seconds to play as his elbow made contact with the head of Cincinnati’s Shaquille Thomas while being pressured in the backcourt.
At the time, Creighton had a 60-54 lead. Cincinnati was attempting to double-team McDermott after he had taken an inbounds pass, and likely would have had to foul had it not been able to force McDermott into a turnover.
“That call could have changed the outcome of the game,” Greg McDermott said. “That would have been unfortunate because there certainly wasn’t any intent with what Doug was doing. He was just trying to clear himself because there was a lot of contact in that double team.”
The officials called McDermott for a foul, then after reviewing the videotape, issued the flagrant foul call. Thomas missed the two free throws, but Cincinnati retained possession of the ball. Sean Kilpatrick made a 3-point basket two seconds later, cutting the Bluejays’ lead to three and setting up a frantic final minute that saw the Bearcats eventually get within a point.
Doug McDermott said he knew he was going to get called for the flagrant one foul as soon as contact was made.
“I was trying to be aggressive in that situation,” he said. “It was an unfortunate call but we found a way to step up and win the game.”
Greg McDermott said that when the coaches voted the rule in, it was to cut down on intentional shots to the head. The way it’s being enforced keeps referees from determining whether the foul was intentional or not.
“I’m not crazy about the rule,” the coach said. “I hope we can tweak it because it puts the referees in a tough spot. They have a tough job to do, and they did it the way the rule book reads.
“I don’t like the rule, but the coaches voted it in, so I guess I’m guilty of having it in place.”
CU handles pressure
Creighton came into the game knowing it had to take care of the basketball against an aggressive Cincinnati team that likes to use its defense to jump-start its offense.
Six minutes into the game, the Bluejays had more turnovers (five) than shots (four).
“We knew there were going to be turnovers but it’s like Coach always tells us, we just had to move on to the next play,” Creighton guard Austin Chatman said. “I thought as the game went on, we did a better job of protecting the basketball.
“We knew they were going to come after us hard, but I thought, for the most part, we handled their pressure.”
Creighton did finish with 16 turnovers, but the Bluejays’ ability to make shots and rebound helped offset those mistakes. Creighton shot 45.2 percent from the field and finished with a one-rebound advantage against a team that was fourth in the nation in rebounding margin.
Wragge provides boost
Creighton appeared on the verge of taking control of the game when Doug McDermott scored with 8:39 remaining to give the Bluejays a 52-44 lead.
Creighton then missed its next three shots and committed two turnovers to allow the Bearcats to counter with a 6-0 run that included a 3-point basket by Cashmere Wright.
“We got a little careless, took our foot off the gas and got a little conservative,” Creighton forward Ethan Wragge said. “But it’s tournament time and teams are clinging for life. Cincinnati did a heck of a job of fighting back.”
It was Wragge who Doug McDermott credited with pumping some life into the Bluejays when they were struggling to get things going offensively in the first half. Wragge made three 3-point baskets in the first 20 minutes and finished 4 of 5 from beyond the arc for 12 points.
“Ethan was a huge spark off the bench today,” Doug McDermott said. “Cincinnati was really aggressive at the start in getting into the passing lanes. But we just continued to do what we do. We calmed down and started to get some transition looks.”
Wragge said he’s able to do what he does mainly because of the attention McDermott draws on the court.
“Doug is constantly getting double-teamed,” Wragge said. “Guys are pushing and pulling on him but that opens up things for our shooters. When we can get some outside shots going, I think that fires us up on the defensive end.”
Coach K nearly a Jay?
The victory advanced Creighton into a third-round game against second-seeded Duke, which defeated Albany 72-59 in Friday’s opening game.
The Blue Devils are coached by Mike Krzyzewski, whom former Creighton coach John “Red” McManus tried to recruit to Omaha in the mid-1960s.
In a 2003 World-Herald story, McManus recalled trying to convince Krzyzewski to come to Creighton.
“He was a straight-A student and we offered him a scholarship,” McManus said. “But then Bob Knight got him an appointment to West Point and he picked them over us.
“We went and watched him play in a all-star game. He scored 26 of 27 points. He was a fine young man.”
Creighton has never played Duke but a lot of Bluejay fans had penciled in that matchup in the 2003 tournament. Central Michigan ruined that by upsetting Creighton in the first round.
Bits and pieces
Doug McDermott’s 27 points allowed him to break his own single-season scoring record. McDermott scored 801 points last season and now has 813 … McDermott tied Paul Silas for the second-highest point total by a Creighton player in an NCAA tournament game. Terrell Taylor has the school record in scoring 28 points against Florida in the 2002 tournament. … Creighton improved to 11-18 in NCAA tournament play and 8-10 in its first game of the tournament. … Two of McDermott’s points came on free throws following a second-half technical foul. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said he was told the technical was called when a player on the Bearcats’ bench waved a towel. “That’s really hard for me to swallow right now,” Cronin said. ... McDermott grabbed 11 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season and the 30th of his career.
— Steven Pivovar