Where did Doug McDermott watch the last shot? From his back.
On Creighton's final possession, he'd flashed wide open, received, rose and launched from 25 feet, landing on his screener's foot, falling to the floor.
Suddenly the player known for his constant motion lay still — just for a moment — like a bundled third-grader at the bottom of a sledding hill, grinning in delight. Only this was no quiet day in the park. There were 17,000 voices exploding around him.
“I had to soak that up,” McDermott said. “I haven't had a moment like that here in this arena. It's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime deal.”
At first, McDermott believed the game was over. Then he thought, “Oh, crap, there's 2 seconds left.” St. John's and Creighton called a series of timeouts, giving him extra time to look around. To listen to the cheers. To banter with an official.
I got fouled, he said. The ref laughed.
“I was just joking. I did get fouled, though.”
McDermott wouldn't have had his moment if Creighton hadn't crumbled down the stretch. The Jays' 18-point second-half lead disappeared in a heap of careless turnovers and shoddy defense. But they have nine days to dissect their faults. Tuesday was a chance to cherish college basketball's best player.
McDermott's State of the Union address went like this: He won't be intimidated by the nation's top shot-blocking frontline. (Applause.) He won't be timid when teammates are bricking 3s and fumbling the ball. (Applause.) He will seize the big stage, punctuating signature performances with clutch McBuckets. (Bipartisan applause.)
This is no longer a race for national player of the year. This is Tiger Woods on the back nine at the 2000 U.S. Open. This is Peyton Manning leading by four touchdowns and going no-huddle. What can he do next?
I spent Tuesday night on press row, flanking five NBA talent evaluators, including Danny Ferry, Atlanta Hawks general manager. McDermott is the antithesis of the typical lottery pick. More production than potential. So have you learned anything about him tonight, I asked a scout late in the first half.
The reply: No. He's a known quantity. Everything the scout wrote down on his yellow pad, I'd seen or heard before:
Pick and pop.
Finishes with right or left hand.
Shoots the 3 with ease.
Knows how to go to get open.
Touch around the rim.
Step-back jumper (the scout gave that one an exclamation point).
McDermott showed every skill in his arsenal. When his dad implored him to take the ball directly at the bigger St. John's defenders, Doug gave a head-fake, drove left, scored off the glass and got fouled. At that point, he had 28 points; St. John's had 27.
We've seen it all before, haven't we? That's the beauty of McDermott's game. The repetition. The consistency. The fact that Steve Lavin's players knew where the ball was going on the final possession and couldn't stop it.
And yet as Doug turns toward the home stretch — the final half of his final season — he keeps maximizing opportunities to make believers.
He shuns the perception that he's a known quantity, a finished product. He's not content. Never content.
He looks at every game, every possession, as a chance to compete. While 18-year-old super freshmen like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are used to fame — maybe even fatigued by it — McDermott is a 22-year-old with fresh legs. The energy of a third-grader on a snow day.
“A lot of people coming into the season didn't think I could play against these kinds of athletes,” McDermott told me. “I think I've done a pretty decent job.”
Humble? Sure. On the outside. But internally, there's a hard edge to No. 3, the same edge that made Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant great in the clutch. The same edge that makes Kevin Durant great now.
Just before he hit the floor, just before the sold-out crowd erupted, just before he sent Twitter into a tizzy, Doug McDermott watched the ball rotate off his right hand.
“I knew it was going in.”
One thing made it even cooler: We did, too.
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>> Video: See Doug McDermott discuss his game-winning shot:
>> Video: See CU coach Greg McDermott speak to the media after the win:
>> Video: See St. John's coach Steve Lavin speak after the game:
>> Video: See highlights from Creighton's win over St. John's:
>> Video: See Fox Sports announcers Kevin Kugler and Jim Jackson recap the game:
>> Video: See Doug McDermott talk to Jim Jackson of Fox Sports:
>> Video: See highlights of the game from Fox Sports: