The idea when St. John's visited Omaha recently was to put the onus on Creighton star Doug McDermott, the favorite for national player of the year honors, to try to beat the Red Storm without much help from his teammates. Guess what? He did.
McDermott scored 39 points, including a game-winning three-pointer from 25 feet out with 2.5 seconds left in a 63-60 Bluejays win. Describing McDermott's performance, St. John's Sir'Dominic Pointer said, "He showed what he can do. He beat us himself, pretty much."
Now the challenge to McDermott is to prove he can do it again on the big stage at Madison Square Garden tonight. Since that loss, the Red Storm (14-9, 4-6 Big East) has scored impressive wins over Marquette and on the road at Providence, and a win over the 12th-ranked Bluejays (19-3, 9-1) might be just the boost St. John's needs to make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid.
"[Beating] a nationally ranked team would help us out," Pointer said. "It would get us looked at. Our goal is to make the tournament, and we need a big win to do it."
That loss to Creighton was typical of St. John's struggles in that it had to overcome an 18-point deficit. But in the past two games, the Red Storm broke on top early, leading Marquette by 26 points and Providence by 23 on the way to double-digit wins.
"The last two games, we started off fast," Pointer said. "We've got to spread the court, hit open shots and play better defense."
McDermott arrives at the Garden averaging 25.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. The Bluejays are the top three-point shooting team in the country, making 10.8 threes per game and shooting 42.5 percent. McDermott needs 29 points to move past Knicks executive Allan Houston (2,801 career points) as the 16th-leading scorer in NCAA history.
"McDermott's a great player," Pointer said. "Most teams know he's going to get his points. Their job is to make him take a lot of shots and make sure the rest of the team doesn't beat you. We had the game plan last time. McDermott just had a good night."