Big shot from McDermott helps Creighton overcome pesky Hawks

PHILADELPHIA -- For 39 minutes, Creighton showed why they're so much more than just Doug McDermott.

Playing in a hostile enviornment at Hagan Arena on Saturday night against Saint Joseph's, the Bluejays displayed all the elements that make them such a hard team team to defend for 40 minutes.

Operating with the focus of a surgeon, sharp shooting forward Ethan Wragge made 7-of-11 three-point shots and finished with 21 points, while newcomer Devin Brooks added 16.

Those two helped Creighton come back from a 13-point first-half deficit, but when the Bluejays needed a bucket when it mattered most, they went back to their All-American.

Trailing 80-79 with 5.9 seconds left in regulation, McDermott nailed a jump shot from the left wing and drew a foul to give Creighton the lead for good.

McDermott would nail the following free throw and after a turnover on the next play by the Hawks, Brooks would add two more from the foul line to give the Bluejays an impressive 83-79 road victory.

"That was one of the better college basketball games I've been a part of," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said after the game. "They really punched us in the mouth to start the game and we really responded."

Saint Joseph's seemed to have control of the game until midway through the second half.

The Bluejays were able to cut the Hawks' lead to five by intermission but between Wragge's effortless ability to stretch the defense and Brooks' knack for getting into the lane, Saint Joseph's relentless double-teams on McDermott eventually started to cost them.

"Those two had 20 of their 40 points at half time," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said of Wragge and Brooks. "They have a really nice team. They scored 40 points in a half and Doug McDermott only took five shots."

But even with their star facing constant double teams, Creighton was still able to remain within striking distance against a team that could be comparable in talent to some of the teams they'll see when they begin conference play in the Big East at the end of next month.

Many have wondered how the Bluejays' supporting cast will adjust to a higher level of competition after spending last season in the Missouri Valley, but if Saturday night is any indication they've got more than enough weapons to be beyond competitive.

"We're not just a one man team," said Doug McDermott, who finished with 20 points and five rebounds. "Ethan (Wragge) shot the blood out of the ball tonight as he always does. We've got a lot of shooters and that always helps."

With Wragge, McDermott, sixth-year man Grant Gibbs (11 points, six assists, six rebounds), and point guard Austin Chatman (seven points), Creighton has several guys who can make a play with the ball.

But the real wild card in this group is Brooks.

The Bluejays have always had scorers but this particular group hasn't had a guy like the New York City native who spent last season at Iowa Western Community College.

"The kid has no fear," Greg McDermott said of Brooks. "None."

Saint Joseph's looked like a team that could end up in the upper echelon of the Atlantic 10 after suffering through a disappointing 18-14 finish (tied for eighth in the A-10) in 2012-13.

The Hawks' senior triumvirate of Langston Galloway, Halil Kanacevic, and Ron Roberts is still rock solid, and freshman DeAndre Bembry looks like a gem. The 6-6 forward played multiple positions for Saint Joseph's, including point guard and led the Hawks with 20 points.

It may have been November 16th, but it felt like a conference game in the middle of February.

"I told my staff when we joined the Big East that I wouldn't have scheduled this game if I knew we were going to be switching conferences," Greg McDermott said with a chuckle after the game. "I learned a lot about my team tonight. I learned that we're resilient."

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