Creighton's ability to find the open man Monday night was at its best during the few minutes that its game against Missouri-Kansas City was in doubt.
The Kangaroos had weathered an early storm to come back to take their only leads of the game midway through the first half. Then, with the score tied, the Bluejays closed the first half on a 27-8 run that sent them to a 96-70 victory.
“I thought we broke down defensively, but to Creighton's credit, they make you pay,'' UMKC coach Kareem Richardson said. “They could put a blindfold on and find guys wide open.
“They know exactly where each guy is going to be, and coach McDermott does a wonderful job of scheming up offensive things. And then they run his actions to perfection.''
Creighton had 27 assists on 35 baskets in the game that drew 16,859 to the CenturyLink Center. Point guards Austin Chatman and Devin Brooks dished out 14 of the assists, and Grant Gibbs found open teammates for baskets seven times.
Of course, All-American Doug McDermott was on the end of many of those passes. The senior produced his fourth-highest scoring total of his illustrious career in putting up 37 points against the Kangaroos.
Such excellence has become so commonplace that McDermott wasn't asked in the postgame press conference about his big scoring night until just before he and Chatman were about to be dismissed.
“I missed a lot of shots that I should have made,'' said McDermott, who finished 15 of 25 from the field. “I was just in one of those zones, and my teammates did a really good job of finding me.
“We did a good job of getting our transition game going early, and that's where we got things flowing. It was a good night, but I know it's going to get a lot tougher. I can't dwell on this performance and focus on St. Joe's.''
Saturday's game at St. Joseph's moved to the front burner as soon as the final buzzer sounded. Creighton lost in its last visit to Philadelphia two years ago, and the Bluejays know Saturday's game will give them their first real test of the season after lopsided victories over Alcorn State and the Kangaroos.
“We got the victory,'' said Creighton coach Greg McDermott, summing up Monday's performance that contained enough warts to give him teaching material for the next few days. “We did what we were supposed to do, but the road is going to get a little tougher starting Saturday.''
Monday's contest featured few nail-biting moments. Doug McDermott scored the game's first nine points and the Bluejays blew out to an 18-11 lead. UMKC countered with a 9-1 run to move in front 20-19.
The Kangaroos led 23-21 after Caleb Johnson banked in a 3-point shot with 7:35 left in the half. That's when things turned sour in a hurry for UMKC. Creighton scored on 11 of its final 13 possessions of the first half.
Five of its baskets during that span were 3-pointers, with McDermott giving his team the lead for good at the 6:50 mark and then burying a shot from the corner that resulted in a four-point play.
Creighton center Will Artino slipped a slick pass from under the basket to McDermott, who was fouled by Trinity Hall on the play. McDermott's free throw with 37.2 seconds left in the half put Creighton ahead 44-29.
“Will had a great find in the corner there, and he (Hall) kind of pushed me as I shot,'' McDermott said. “I hit my head on one of their benches, so that kind of hurt, but it was just a great play. We were really unselfish all night.''
Creighton then took a 17-point lead into the half when Chatman banked in a 3-point shot at the buzzer. Chatman had pushed the ball upcourt but couldn't find anyone for a pass, so he stopped just outside the 3-point line and hesitated briefly.
“I was hoping to get him (defender) off his feet and get him up in the air,'' Chatman said. “I couldn't, so I just threw it up and it went in.''
Chatman finished with 12 points to go with nine assists and seven rebounds.
“Doug obviously does what he does,'' Richardson said. “But I thought Chatman really made the team go for them. Nine assists and no turnovers. He makes everyone's job for Creighton a little easier.
“Even with our pressing, it was difficult for us to get him under control. I thought he was a major, major factor in their success.''
Creighton, which outrebounded UMKC 51-35, got a team-high nine rebounds out of Brooks, its other point guard. He and Chatman combined for 16 points, 16 rebounds and 14 assists.
McDermott continued his scoring onslaught at the start of the second half, scoring nine of Creighton's first 11 points as the Bluejays boosted their lead to 59-36. The Kangaroos never got closer than 18 points after that.
Thirteen of the 14 Bluejays who played contributed at least two points, with Isaiah Zierden joining McDermott and Chatman in double figures with 10 points. Creighton shot 51.5 percent from the field and 46.4 percent from 3-point range.
A concern for their coach was the 13-of-21 showing (61.9 percent) from the free-throw line. At one point in the second half, Creighton was shooting 50 percent both from the line and from beyond the arc.
“We need to become the type of free-throw shooting team we were a year ago,'' said Greg McDermott, whose team made almost 76 percent of its foul shots last season. “With these new rules, games are going to come down to free throws more times than not this year.
“We need to be on the leading edge of that.''
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Video: Doug McDermott's postgame interview:
Video: Fox Sports recap:
Video: Highlights from Creighton's win:
Video: Doug McDermott's 3-pointer gets a fan dancing: