NEW YORK — As a kid growing up in Ames, Iowa, far from the bright lights of New York City, Doug McDermott dreamed of playing in big games at Madison Square Garden.
On Thursday night, the Creighton senior forward etched his name in the Garden and Big East tournament record books with a sterling first-half performance on the way to the Bluejays’ 84-62 win over the DePaul Blue Demons in the quarterfinals.
McDermott, the Big East Conference Player of the Year, scored 35 points, the most by a player in his Big East tournament debut. He set a tournament record for most points in a half, pouring in 27 in the opening 20 mintues for No. 14 Creighton (25-6), the tournament’s second seed.
It marked the 25th time that McDermott has scored at least 30 points this season.
“The Garden is about as good as it gets,” McDermott said. “I watched the (Big East) tournament a lot. You remember the Kemba (Walker) moment, so many great games. So just to be part of it definitely was in the back of my mind.
“In warmups, it felt surreal out there.”
Creighton plays the Xavier-Marquette winner in the semifinals on Friday.
DePaul (12-21) now has 50 straight losses to ranked opponents.
The Blue Demons, who advanced to the second round of the tournament for only the second time since joining a conference, were led by guard Brandon Young, who scored 22 points. Young passed Doug Corzine for third place on the school’s scoring list with 1,899 points.
“I think Brandon (Young) exemplifies what our program is all about,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “He wouldn’t say this, but I think he’s playing his best basketball by far coming down the stretch when we needed him most.
“I’ll say to him (Young) now what I said in the locker room. If he (Young) battles like this in anything he does, not only basketball, but anything he does beyond basketball and sticks to it, he’s going to be successful.”
Creighton leads the nation in 3-point percentage (42.0) and averages 10.3 per game. The Bluejays enjoyed one of their better shooting performances, going 32-for-53 (60.4 percent) and were 14-for-22 beyond the arc.
The responsibility of shooting the long ball usually falls to Creighton forward Ethan Wragge, but against DePaul, McDermott took over that aspect of the offense, making a personal season-high seven 3’s.
“I was just feeling in the rhythm, in the zone,” McDermott. “I just happened to get going and my teammates recognized that I had the hot hand.
“It just felt like everything is going to go in. It’s one of those feelings where you just feel like you have all the energy and confidence in the world.”
DePaul got as close as 10 points at 60-50 after a layup from guard Billy Garrett Jr. with 9:30 left, but Creighton extended its lead to 20 points at 72-52 by going on a 12-2 run with 5:50 remaining.
McDermott put on a long-range jump shooting exhibition in the first half. Scoring from all areas beyond the perimeter, he poured in 27 first-half points to lead Creighton to a 49-29 lead.
He was inexplicably left open on the outside in the first half and he took advantage, drilling 7 of 9 3-point attempts. The Bluejays were 10-for-16 from 3-point range.
Creighton came out and accomplished what it is known for — draining 3-pointers. The Bluejays sank six of their first nine and took a 20-8 lead. McDermott scored 11 of those points and guard Jahenns Manigat contributed nine.
When Creighton lost to St. John’s 70-65 at Madison Square Garden in early February, McDermott was held scoreless in the last seven minutes of the game.
“St. John’s did a great job there in the second half,” McDermott said. “But a lot of it was my fault. I kind of quit moving with the ball a little.
“I wanted to come in today with a mindset just to continue to keep moving, to be aggressive. It’s not only going to give me shots, but it’s going to get shots for my teammates.”
NOTES: Creighton F Doug McDermott was selected the Big East’s Player of the Week eight times this season — the most
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