INDIANAPOLIS — With the ability of Doug McDermott to make big shots down the stretch, his teammates made sure to give him that chance.
A chance McDermott, the two-time All-American power forward, thought he blew.
With the No. 18 Creighton Bluejays down 63-61 with 50 seconds left, McDermott popped into a sliver of daylight and launched a 3-pointer from the top of the key over the outstretched arms of Butler Bulldogs forward Kameron Woods.
“It didn’t feel good,” said McDermott, who had 26 points and five rebounds. “I didn’t think I made it at all. I was really surprised it went in.”
Because it did, Creighton, on the best roll in school history, survived for a 68-63 victory over the Bulldogs on Thursday night.
The Bluejays (20-4, 10-2 Big East) won 15 of their last 17 games and bounced back from a 70-65 loss at St. John’s on Sunday. The win is Creighton’s 100th in the last four seasons, an unprecedented stretch.
“That’s the big one,” said McDermott, whose father Greg’s tenure as coach coincides with the success. “It means a lot. We’re all proud and looking for more to come.”
This one was far from easy, as struggling Butler attempted to end its tailspin by pulling off another classic upset at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
It was not meant to be.
Guard Kellen Dunham, who led the Bulldogs with 16 points, missed a tough 3-pointer with 5 seconds left that would have tied it at 66. Butler coach Brandon Miller had guard Elijah Brown set a screen instead of a big man to try to create confusion.
Creighton rebounded and point guard Austin Chatman made two free throws to close the scoring.
“This is a really good win for us,” Greg McDermott said. “Butler played their tails off.”
The Bulldogs (12-13, 2-11) started the year 10-2 but have lost 11 of their past 13. Still, after a noncompetitive home loss to Xavier on Tuesday, Butler bounced back less than 48 hours later with an inspired performance.
“Heck of a game,” Miller said. “Our guys played Butler basketball from start to finish. Couldn’t be more proud of the effort, of the way we fought. Tonight we took a huge step forward.”
Butler went 9 of 20 from 3-point range, secured 14 offensive rebounds and committed just six turnovers. The Bulldogs shot just 39 percent (22-of-57) from the field.
They held a 63-61 lead when forward Khyle Marshall turned over his right shoulder and banked in a hook shot over McDermott from the left block.
Point guard Alex Barlow had 13 points for Butler, while Woods had 12 rebounds. Center Andrew Chrabascz scored 10 points and Brown and Marshall added eight apiece.
Creighton shot 50 percent from the floor (24-of-48) and its supporting cast was terrific in spite of an off night from center Ethan Wragge, who had just three points and was 0-of-4 from the field.
Backup center Will Artino controlled the paint with 11 points and a season-high 10 rebounds, guard Jahenns Manigat scored all nine of his points in the second half, and Chatman, a small, lightning-fast point guard, penetrated in the halfcourt and finished with nine points and six assists.
“We have a lot of guys on our team capable of making big plays,” Doug McDermott said. “We look for me first, but it makes it really easy on me. Will had that look in his eye.”
After McDermott’s go-ahead 3, Chrabascz missed two wild attempts in the paint and Chatman calmly drained a pair of free throws to give the Bluejays a 66-63 edge with 18 seconds left.
Chrabascz’s third 3-pointer of the season tied the game at 61 with 4 minutes to go, but Creighton’s defense locked down from there, getting three stops on Butler’s last four possessions, and secured another victory in a season full of them.
In the teams’ first meeting Jan. 14, won 88-60 by Creighton, the Bulldogs were completely overwhelmed, allowing McDermott and Co. to shoot 56 percent.
Early on, it appeared Creighton was on its way to a repeat, riding 12 points from McDermott to a 17-7 lead with 11:28 left in the first half.
But the Bulldogs dug in and righted the ship
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