Creighton coach Greg McDermott took special note of the box score from Seton Hall's last game.
The Pirates used 12 players in Thursday's 82-67 win against Georgetown. Eugene Teague and Brian Oliver played after missing the previous game because of a suspension. So did several others who had missed action earlier this season because of injury.
Though Seton Hall brings a 14-12 record into Sunday's visit to the CenturyLink Center, McDermott knows that the challenge for his No. 11 Bluejays ratchets up with the Pirates having all hands on deck.
“Talentwise, they have plenty of it to go around on that team,” McDermott said. “They've had some injuries and suspensions, and very seldom have they had their whole group together.
“They did the other night against Georgetown, and they won handily.”
The home victory improved the Pirates to 5-8 in the Big East and allowed them to sweep the season series with Georgetown for the first time since 2002-03. Their five conference victories are two more than they recorded last season.
Three of Seton Hall's Big East losses have come by one point apiece, including two to the league's hottest team, St. John's. The Pirates also dropped a one-point decision to Oklahoma in nonconference play.
The combination of close losses and forced roster juggling has left Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard frustrated at times. Willard has used 16 different starting lineups this season. By comparison, McDermott has used three.
“we're four points away from having a totally different record,” Willard said. “That's why I've been very positive with this group, because I feel we can still play very good basketball.”
That's the message Willard delivered to his team in the locker room after Thursday's victory.
“When we have a great attitude and we're focused on what we need to focus on and we share the basketball, we have a chance to be a very good team,” Willard said. “We make shots, we shoot a high percentage and we're defending much better.”
Seton Hall ranks third in the Big East with 74.2 points a game. The Pirates are third in the league in 3-point field-goal percentage (.366) and fifth in field-goal percentage (.458). Willard's concern about his team not always sharing the basketball? The Pirates are sixth in the league in assists (13.5 per game).
They did record 20, on 27 baskets, in the win over Georgetown. Freshman Jaren Sina started and had four assists against one turnover. Sophomore Sterling Gibbs, who had started the previous 10 games, had seven assists and no turnovers.
“I have a lot of confidence in Jaren, and I thought it would give him a chance to get out there,” Willard said. “Either way, we're going to need both of those guys playing 28 to 32 minutes.
“In my mind, it doesn't matter who starts. I just wanted to give Jaren a chance to start and to get his nerves out in the warmup line instead of when he comes into the game. Jaren gave us a good pace, and Sterling came in and gave us a good punch.”
Gibbs ranks second on the team at 14.3 points a game and leads the Pirates in assists with 111. Senior guard Fuquan Edwin, who leads the league in steals with 64, is Seton Hall's top scorer at 14.5 points per game, while Oliver is third at 11.6 and Teague fourth at 10.2.
Teague, a 6-foot-9 senior, missed the first meeting with Creighton last month as he recovered from a concussion. The Pirates also were without 6-11 Aaron Geramipoor, and their absences left Seton Hall depending on Patrik Auda and Brandon Mobley to play the bulk of the minutes inside.
In turn, Doug McDermott had a field day. He scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 35 minutes. He knows things might not come as easily in Sunday's rematch.
“We got off to a really good start the first time against them,” he said. “We have gotten off to some great starts this season, but we know we can't rely on that. We have to continue to fight no matter how the game starts.
“They're going to come in here with a chip on their shoulders as they're playing with nothing to lose. They're going to be looking at this as a chance to come in and play against a top 15 team.”
McDermott will enter Sunday's game needing 26 points to crack the top 10 of the NCAA's all-time scoring list. Former Loyola star Alfredrick Hughes scored 2,914 points from 1981 through 1985. McDermott sits at 2,888 points in his quest to become the eighth player in Division I history to score 3,000.
After Hughes, the next two names on the list are Kansas' Danny Manning (2,951 points) and Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson (2,973 points).
“It's surreal, and I would have never have dreamed about passing some of those guys,” Doug McDermott said. “I have to try to stay in the moment, not get too big of a head and enjoy it.
“Someday, I'll look back on this and realize just how cool it was.”