SAN ANTONIO — Doug McDermott scored 30 points and third-seeded Creighton got three huge 3-pointers in the second half from Ethan Wragge to beat No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette 76-66 Friday in the West Regional.
McDermott had a double-double by halftime but went scoreless for nearly 14 minutes of the second half, leaving it to Wragge’s long shots to bail out the Bluejays from a potential upset by Ragin’ Cajuns, who attacked Creighton (27-7) with fearless defense and rebounding.
Sun Belt tournament champion Louisiana-Lafayette (23-12) led 50-48 before Wragge struck from long range to turn momentum.
The win means the Creighton family keeps marching on its final days together. McDermott, the nation’s leading scorer, opted against going to the NBA after last season to play one more year with his father, Creighton coach Greg McDermott.
McDermott came into the tournament averaging 26.9 points per game and ranks fifth in NCAA history in career points. His senior season has been nothing short of individually spectacular as he’s a favorite for just about every national player of the year award.
He’s now scored at least 30 points in four of Creighton’s last five games.
The question is, just how far can he carry the Bluejays through the next few weeks before his college career is finally over?
The Ragin’ Cajuns nearly had a chance to end it. Louisiana-Lafayette hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2000 and certainly weren’t intimidated by McDermott, keeping him scoreless for a long stretch of the second half. McDermott finally put the dagger in the game with a long 3-pointer with 2:03 to play that put Creighton ahead 71-64.
When it was over, McDermott knew Creighton had been in a fight. As soon as the final buzzer sounded, McDemott clapped his hands, exhaled and high-fived Wragge under the basket.
Louisiana-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton scored 24 and did what he could to match McDermott shot for shot.
Creighton looked tight — perhaps because of the pressure to push (or ride) McDermott as far as they can go. The Bluejays, one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, missed their first six attempts from long range and struggled to get the ball to McDermott on some of his quick cuts to the basket.
McDermott did whatever he could, slipping into seams for layups and gathering 10 first half rebounds, to keep the Bluejays going. He scored nine in a row in one burst but just as often left wanting the ball when teammates couldn’t find him with the quick pass when he was open.
Louisiana-Lafayette’s Shawn Long blocked a McDermott shot, but sent the ball so fall it fell right to Creighton guard Austin Chapman for a 3-pointer. The Ragin’ Cajuns answered with Payton’s 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut Creighton’s lead to 39-33 at halftime.
The block was the statement that Louisiana-Lafayette had no plans to make things easy for McDermott
The Ragin’ Cajuns stayed aggressive with their defense and rebounding on both ends of the court and took their first lead of the second half at 48-46 when 6-foot-6, 325-pound Center J.J. Davenport posted up before hitting a soft fall away jumper with just under 13 minutes to play.
Wragge struggled to find his stroke until popping three in a row. His last one put Creighton up by six before Austin Chatman converted a 3-point play and McDermott closed it out.