Greg McDermott is always more concerned with scoring points than making them.
Perhaps that's why the Creighton coach wasn't totally buying the postgame thinking that the manner in which his Bluejays defeated Marquette represented some type of referendum on their readiness to play in the rough, tough Big East.
Creighton beat Marquette at its own game, outdefending and outrebounding the Golden Eagles in the 67-49 win. Losing those battles put Marquette — perhaps the most offensively challenged “big-name” opponent to play at the CenturyLink Center — at a distinct disadvantage.
The Bluejays held Marquette to 35.8 percent shooting and forced 15 turnovers on the Golden Eagles' 59 possessions.
“I don't know how many of our 15 turnovers were because of us or because of them, but they made it hard for us to get in inside off the pass or the bounce,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “That's how we're built, and I thought they did a good job of that.”
For McDermott, the performance in Creighton's debut game in its new league just reinforced that his team is probably better defensively than some folks give it credit for. For the past couple of weeks, McDermott has been pointing out the growing number of games that Creighton has held an opponent below 40 percent shooting from the field.
The number grew to nine in 13 games after the Marquette game.
“I think we've proved that we can be a decent defensive team,” McDermott said. “Those teams that are long and athletic, they don't have a corner on defense. We do it a little different. Our guys have to be in the right spots, they have to communicate and they have to execute.
“We're not going to block a ton of shots, but I thought we proved tonight that we can guard a little.”
Marquette did come into the game ninth in the 10-team Big East in scoring, and Creighton managed to hold the Golden Eagles 24 points below their average of 72.9 points per game.
The Bluejays' 67 points were six more than the average Marquette had been allowing in its first 13 games. As hard earned as each of those points were, Creighton came away satisfied with grinding out the victory.
“That's the kind of basketball that Marquette plays, and they're used to winning those kind of games,” Creighton forward Doug McDermott said. “I don't think a lot of people think we win those type of games.
“I think this shows that we can battle with these strong and athletic teams. It might be a little more of a grind out there, but I think we still got the shots we wanted. This is a great building block.”
Creighton now faces its next two games on the road — Saturday at Seton Hall and Tuesday at DePaul. As important as it was for Creighton to win its inaugural conference game, the Bluejays know it was just the first of 18 conference battles over the next two-plus months.
“This is just one game,” Greg McDermott said. “There are going to be times during the year when Marquette plays a little better than it did and there are going to be times when we don't play quite as well as we did.
“Basketball is a long season, and there are a lot of peaks and valleys.”
Given the anticipation that accompanied Creighton's opening game, McDermott was asked if he feared the Bluejays might be headed for a letdown as they move on to their next game.
“I don't think we'll have a letdown, but Seton Hall is a good basketball team — they just haven't been healthy,” the coach said. “I don't think there are any gimmes in this league. Wish there were, but I don't think there are.
“I think you're going to have to strap it up and hook it up and be ready every play every single time you step on the floor. If you're not at your best, you're asking for trouble.”
One distinct advantage that Williams sees Creighton having as it moves forward is that the Bluejays are going to be tough to beat at home. Tuesday's game drew the school's third-largest crowd in history (18,525), and the fans were as energized as they've been for any game played in the CenturyLink.
“I thought it was an unbelievable atmosphere,” Williams said. “Teams in any league that win on the road have a chance to win the league, and I think it's going to be incredibly hard for teams to win here. The atmosphere, their players, their staff are superb.”
Creighton's performance sent the crowd out into the last hour of 2013 ready to celebrate. Guard Jahenns Manigat said the fans played a key role in the outcome.
“When you have 18,000-some in the stands, you hope they make a little noise for you and feed you that kind of energy,” he said. “When they do, you want to reciprocate it by making a play on the defensive end or getting a rebound.”
Doug McDermott agreed.
“We really fed off that crowd, and that's what we need for every game,” he said. “We only have eight games left here, and it would be awesome to have atmospheres like that the rest of the way.”