OMAHA, Neb. — The way Creighton dominated Saint Joseph’s made the 11th-ranked Bluejays’ stunning mid-week loss to Boise State look more like an aberration.
Doug McDermott scored 18 of his 23 points in the first half, and Creighton rode a fast start to an 80-51 men’s basketball victory over the Hawks on Saturday.
Gregory Echenique added 16 points and six rebounds for the Bluejays (7-1), who played their best half of the season after a flat performance in 13-point loss to the Broncos three nights earlier.
“It showed a lot of maturity from our team,” McDermott said. “We didn’t get too down on ourselves. We knew a good team like Saint Joseph’s was coming in here and we had to be ready. We sent the nation a statement by what we did, and we’ve got to continue that kind of play.”
The Bluejays led 47-20 after breaking the game open with 12- and 13-point runs. They shot 57 percent, had assists on 13 of their first 17 field goals, and converted 10 turnovers into 16 points in the first half.
McDermott made four of his first five 3-pointers and scored 18 points in less than 12 minutes. He finished 5-of-7 on 3s and added six rebounds and three assists.
“I’m a big believer that stars have to play like stars in big games, and I think because of both teams’ (reputations) and the way both teams started the season, this was a big game,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said.
“You don’t sell standing-room-only tickets to chopped liver. He was a star. He had a look about him early on, and because he plays with so much emotion and is so aggressive, he attracts all your attention. The other guys play so well off it.”
Langston Galloway scored 10 points to lead the Hawks (4-2), who played their first true road game in front of an energetic overflow crowd of 17,390 at CenturyLink Center.
Saint Joseph’s season-scoring leader Carl Jones, who had 29 points in a win over Creighton last season, was held to nine.
McDermott and his teammates played inspired ball from the outset.
He recorded his first assist when he passed up a shot from the top of the key and fed Echenique in the post for a three-point play. As Echenique’s shot went down, McDermott turned and let fly a giant fist pump like a baseball umpire calling a runner out on a close play.
Echenique had his way inside, overpowering anyone the Hawks put up against him. He threw down a couple of dunks during the 13-0 run that made it 39-10.
“Best big man on the floor without question,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
Echenique’s big game came after he was not much of a factor against Boise State, with nine points and three rebounds. Echenique was 7-of-9 from the field against the Hawks and is 31-of-42 for the season (73.8 percent).
“We were probably a little too hard on Gregory after the Boise game,” coach McDermott said. “We just see so much more in him than he gives us sometimes. He maybe gets unfairly picked on by us as a coaching staff. Yesterday may be the best practice he had as a Bluejay. He was engaged. His effort was off the charts.”
Grant Gibbs had nine assists and no turnovers spelling Austin Chatman at point guard. Gibbs has 48 assists against eight turnovers for the season.
“He’s unbelievable,” coach McDermott said. “I hope our fans are enjoying what they see. You may never see it again. I’ve never coached a wing player who has that kind of savvy. It’s one thing to get the assist. But when you’re making those decisions, you’d think he would make some mistakes. He doesn’t make many mistakes.”
Saint Joseph’s shot a season-low 38 percent from the field and committed a season-high 17 turnovers in its most lopsided loss since a 95-58 defeat at Charlotte in February 2010.
After allowing Boise State to shoot 60 percent, the Bluejays held Saint Joseph’s to 30 percent in the first half.
“Now we have some good food for thought,” Martelli said. “Was it the road? Was it the way we practiced? We have to look at everything there for improvement. We walk out with our head down over getting whipped, but we don’t walk with our head down and say, ‘Woe is us, that’s the end.’ ”