Doug McDermott really did save his best for last.
Playing in perhaps his final home game as a collegian — indubitably his last game of the 2012-13 regular season — the junior Wooden Award candidate accomplished a feat that hadn’t been done in more than two decades.
McDermott became the first player since 1991 to score 40 points in a game without missing a 2-point shot or a free throw. The Creighton superstar notched a season-high 41 on 15-of-18 shooting (5-of-8 3FG) in the team’s season finale against Wichita State on Saturday, lifting the Bluejays to their first outright conference regular-season title in 12 years.
If this was indeed a farewell tour for McDermott, a projected late first-round draft pick, the former and future repeat All-American will enter the record books as the first player in the history of the Missouri Valley Conference to crack 40 points in his final league game. He’s already the only MVC player to do so on better than 80-percent shooting.
On a night when the Bluejays shot a scorching 70-percent as a team in a 91-79 barn burner, no one in white (or any color, for that matter) was hotter than the once-overlooked high school recruit — the unassuming arsonist who set the college basketball empire ablaze the moment he arrived in Omaha with his father, head coach Greg, nearly three years ago. By the time the junior McDermott had his turn to scale the ladder and snip off a piece of the net in celebration on Saturday, there was little nylon left to cut. He had already burnt through most of it over the two hours prior.
A throwback player with parcels of Matt Harpring, Wall Szczerbiak and Ryan Gomes packaged into college’s most complete offensive skill set, McDermott wasn’t always the standout player he is now. The soft-spoken forward took a backseat to former North Carolina hotshot Harrison Barnes at Ames High School, where he came off the bench as an unheralded sixth man. His own pops didn’t even recruit him at Iowa State.
Fast-forward through a decorated three-year college career and at last NBA scouts are lining up to behold the legend. Those who caught a glimpse at the CenturyLink Center on Saturday saw more than a fine pro prospect. They witnessed a college phenom clipping records on the fly, destination unknown.
This may or may not be the swan song for the lead Bluejay, but it is further testimony that Creighton’s flight to the top follows the brilliant ascension of No. 3.