McDermott finding his comfort zone in Philly, Big East

Posted: January 22, 2014

THE LAST TIME Creighton's Doug McDermott walked out of the Wells Fargo Center, he did so with a broken heart.

The plane ride back to Omaha, Neb., was particularly difficult. He cried heavily after Duke had disposed of the Bluejays in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Plus, he had a huge decision to make: go pro or come back for his senior year.

Buoyed by the heartache from that ride back to Nebraska, as well as Creighton's move from the respectable Missouri Valley into the rugged Big East, McDermott decided to return.

So, how's it going?

"I remember the flight home being pretty much in tears because [my college career] could be all over," McDermott said. "This has been the most fun I've ever had playing the game. It's gone as well as it possibly could have."

McDermott was all smiles after the Bluejays returned to the scene of last year's disappointment and put a 96-68 hurtin' on No. 4 Villanova that left jaws agape. It wouldn't be a surprise if Jay Wright woke up several times last night sounding like Peyton Manning: "Omaha! Omaha!"

When Creighton forward Ethan Wragge hit his fifth consecutive three-pointer to start the game, just about everybody at the Center shook their head in amazement.

Then he hit his sixth. And then No. 7. By the time the onslaught was over, Creighton was up 28, and it was all over but the tallying. If Villanova was the fourth-ranked team in the country, who's fifth?

"Playing in games like this was in the back of my mind the whole time," McDermott said, referring to his decision whether to return to school. "Playing in the NBA is great, making money, playing basketball. But I get such satisfaction playing with my best friends here."

McDermott has a terrific all-around college game, but how that translates to the next level is a matter of question.

"He has a skill to offer. I think he's a top-30 pick," said Elan Vinokurov, president of EV Hoops, a consulting firm used by some NBA teams. "I hear some people say that he is a lottery pick [top 14]; that's crazy. He can be a three-point specialist, but he might be a liability on defense – at least early on."

McDermott, with 23 more points last night, continued his climb up the NCAA all-time scoring list, stepping past David Robinson and Bo McCalebb into 22nd all-time. There's a decent shot - depending on how many games the Bluejays play in March - that McDermott could reach 3,000 points. Creighton (16-3, 6-1 Big East) has 11 regular-season games left.

Wragge eventually cooled off, going 2-for-7 the rest of the way, but the damage was done. Creighton made 21 three-pointers to set a Big East record. Not bad for a team playing only its seventh conference game.

McDermott is headed toward becoming the first player since Patrick Ewing and Wayman Tisdale in 1985 to be first-team All-America three times. He's a leading candidate for national player of the year and, after hitting the game-winner at St. Joe's in November and tattooing Villanova last night, he's erased his Philadelphia nightmare.

"We were talking about it in shootaround," McDermott beamed. "[The Wells Fargo Center] felt like home. We were just here [in March]. It was really cool knowing that we've played [almost as many] games here in the last year than Villanova had. We came in with a pretty open mindset and we played our best basketball."

On Twitter: @EdBarkowitz

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