When the bracket was released, the Creighton-Cincinnati match-up looked like one of the best first round games. In a game that did not disappoint and featured contrasting styles, Creighton and Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott emerged victorious, defeating Cincinnati 67-63. It looks like the new Big East knew what they were doing in grabbing Creighton and two A10 teams for next season.
At the onset, this was a sloppy contest, but no team was able to truly gain control. There were seven lead changes in a half that saw Creighton close with a 6-0 run to end the first 20 minutes up 32-27. Heralded star junior forward Doug McDermott had 14 points in the first half. The NCAA’s second leading scorer turned in 27 points for the Blue Jays.
Creighton maintained the lead through most of the second half until Cincinnati tied it up 54-54 with less than four minutes to play. Following a timeout with 3:22 to play, Creighton re-took the lead on a shot from senior center Gregory Echenique. The big man scored 13 for the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays were able to extend their lead to 60-54 until McDermott was called for a flagrant foul with under a minute to play, giving Shaquille Thomas two free throws and the ball for the Bearcats. Thomas missed both shots, but Sean Kilpatrick, who led the way for the Bearcats with 19 points, was able to drain a three on the possession.
However, Cincinnati followed up the three pointer with a foul on Creighton guard Grant Gibbs who made both shots, extending the lead back to five. Then, Cincinnati’s Cashmere Wright got a quick score and drew a foul. The guard, who scored 13, missed the free throw and a McDermott rebound, foul, and two makes got the lead back up to 5 for the Blue Jays.
Cincinnati then responded, bringing the lead back down to 3. The Bearcats got a jump ball and the ball back. Kilpatrick made a lay-up, bringing it to a 1 point deficit for the Bearcats.
A foul then sent Sophomore guard Austin Chatman to the free throw line, and he extended the lead back to 3. A Cincinnati miss followed by a rebound and travel with 3 seconds left to play forced the Bearcats to then foul Chatman again. After missing the first shot, the young guard got the second one in to seal the deal for the Blue Jays.
Thomas, a freshman for the Bearcats, was impressive in the game, scoring 12 points and showing incredible athleticism for Cincinnati. The Bearcats turned in a great effort, showing tenacious defense and team speed.
Greg McDermott, the coach of Creighton and father of the team’s star, has put together a solid team that will give Duke a challenge. However, it is hard to imagine them beating the Blue Devils as the team relies too much on its star and lacks stellar guard play.