FULLERTON, Calif. — Creighton's offense continued to produce at peak efficiency in Thursday's showdown against Arizona State.
But it was a head-turning performance by the No. 20 Bluejays' sometimes-maligned defense that carried the night in a relatively easy 88-60 victory at the Wooden Legacy tournament.
“That might have been the best team effort defensively since I've been here,” Creighton guard Austin Chatman said. “We executed the game plan to a T.”
The Sun Devils had averaged almost 85 points in winning their first six games. Their high-scoring guard, Jahii Carson, had burned UNLV for 40 points earlier in the season and was averaging 23 points per game.
He struggled to get 15 against the Bluejays, missing 7 of his 12 shots. His teammates also spent the night missing in action, shooting 37.9 percent from the field and committing more turnovers (13) than they had assists (11).
“I'm really pleased to take a team as talented offensively as Arizona State and hold them to 60 points,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “I wouldn't have guessed that would have been possible.”
In improving to 5-0 before 1,865 at the Titan Gym, Creighton advanced to an 8:30 p.m. game Friday against San Diego State. The Aztecs won their opening assignment with ease, jumping out to a 17-1 lead en route to a 72-52 win over College of Charleston.
Creighton holds a 4-1 lead in the series, with the most recent win coming in 2011 when the Bluejays battled back from a 17-point, first-half deficit to post an 85-83 win.
“The game that got our program going was that win two years ago at San Diego State,” McDermott said. “That was the game we point to that gave us the belief that we had a chance to be special with this group of guys.”
Since then, Creighton primarily has hung its hat on a high-scoring offense that features the coach's son, Doug. The two-time, first-team All-American had another big game against the Sun Devils, putting up 27 points and grabbing a team-high six rebounds.
But it was his effort on defense that brought a smile to his face after game. He said he and his teammates hit an offensive lull late in the first half because of the energy they were expending on the opposite end of the court.
“I haven't played that hard on defense for 10 minutes in my career,” Doug McDermott said.
Seated next to his son, Greg McDermott smiled and interjected, “I'll second that.”
Doug laughed, then added, “We know now what it takes to put a whole game together defensively.”
The Bluejays also know, as does Arizona State, what happens when opponents leave Devin Brooks wide open on the perimeter. The junior-college transfer from Iowa Western hadn't made a 3-point shot in Creighton's first four games. In fact, he had attempted just two.
He connected on all four of his long-distance shots against the Sun Devils in putting together a career-high, 23-point performance.
“We got a very productive 19 minutes out of Devin tonight,” Greg McDermott said.
Brooks made 9 of his 11 shots and also dished out two assists.
“I'm usually looking for an opportunity to drive, but if they give me space, I'm going to shoot,” Brooks said. “And they definitely were giving me the space.”
As it did a year ago when it faced Arizona State in the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational, Creighton got off to a red-hot start. The Bluejays jumped out to a 27-9 lead in posting a 14-point victory last November.
Thursday, Doug McDermott had 12 points in staking his team to a 24-9 advantage before the game was eight minutes old. Creighton then had a rare defensive lapse, allowing Arizona State to make 3-point shots on three consecutive possessions, as the Sun Devils closed to 30-24.
Brooks struck quickly to get the lead back out to 10, sandwiching a layup in between 3-point baskets. Creighton then went six straight possessions without scoring, but the Sun Devils missed four free throws and committed two turnovers to squander a chance to capitalize.
The Bluejays strung together 14 straight points — seven to close the first half and seven to start the second — to take a 52-31 lead with 18:10 to play. Isaiah Zierden had the big basket in the first seven, burying a 3-point shot and adding a free throw when he was fouled.
Jahenns Manigat had five of Creighton's first seven points to open the second half.
“We had hit a spell where the ball stopped moving,” Manigat said. “We talked at halftime about how if we could get the ball moving again and gave different guys different looks, Arizona State wouldn't be able to keep up.
“That's exactly what we did. I hit that first 3-pointer after two or three reverses. We got the ball moving again, and it was nice to see what we talked about got executed.”
Arizona State never got closer than 14 points after that, and when it did, Creighton hit the Sun Devils with a 10-0 run to seal the outcome.
“Obviously we were outplayed in every facet of the game,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. “We're very disappointed in our performance.”
In addition to allowing Creighton to shoot 53.4 percent from the field, the Sun Devils finished with just a two-rebound advantage (36-34) in spite of the Bluejays utilizing a smaller lineup for a good portion of the game.
“When they go with (Ethan) Wragge and McDermott, without a conventional big man, it's a very difficult matchup for a lot of teams,” Sendek said.
The same could be said when the Bluejays play with the intensity they did on the defensive end of the court.
“I'm not sure we can play much better,” Greg McDermott said. “I thought we guarded them well.”
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>> Video: See the postgame press conference with Greg and Doug McDermott: