GAME NOTES: Two of the top players in the entire NCAA will go head-to-head on Saturday as the Creighton Bluejays visit the Golden State for a non-conference tilt with the Saint Mary's Gaels at McKeon Pavilion as part of the BracketBuster event.
Junior forward Doug McDermott returned to Creighton last season to play for his father Greg's squad after being selected as a First Team All-American as a sophomore. The younger McDermott became the only junior in Missouri Valley Conference history to reach 2,000 career points earlier this season while pacing the Bluejays with 22.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Behind the nation's fourth leading scorer, Creighton has compiled a 22-6 overall record that was recently improved with a 59-45 victory over Southern Illinois.
The Gaels are led by senior floor general Matthew Dellavedova, who is netting 16.0 points and 6.4 assists per outing. Dellavedova is the NCAA's active career leader in assists with 723 and is one of just 12 players being considered for the Bob Cousy Award. The reigning West Coast Conference Player of the Year has guided Randy Bennett's team to a 23-5 overall record that includes just two losses in conference play, both of which came to the No. 3 Gonzaga Bulldogs. With the exception of its setback to the Bulldogs on Feb. 14, SMC is perfect at home on the campaign.
This will be the fifth meeting in history between these schools. Each side has defeated the other twice before, but the rivalry has been idle since Dec. 20, 1979.
The Salukis made it their mission to limit McDermott on Tuesday as he managed to post just 10 points and seven rebounds in the contest. Grant Gibbs picked up the slack by going 3-of-4 from the field on his way to 13 points which he accompanied with five rebounds, five assists and two steals. Will Artino also provided a huge lift by making all six of his field goal tries to net 13 points in just 17 minutes of action. As McDermott struggled, so did the team. The Bluejays are pouring in 76.0 ppg, while ranking second in the nation in field goal percentage (.508) and fourth in assists per game (17.3).
SMU continued to follow the lead of Dellavedova its last time out as it took down BYU, 64-57, at home behind his 20 points and four assists. Beau Levesque chimed in with 17 points off the bench, but the other four members of the starting five shot a collective 12-of-34 from the field including an 0-of-8 mark from distance. The lack of production from the Gaels' role players kept them from reaching their season average of 76.1 ppg. SMC is 10th among Division I schools in field-goal percentage (.484).
While McDermott and Dellavedova will not be guarding one another, there is a strong possibility that this one turns into a duel between them. Both sides have solid role players, good coaches and the ability to light up the scoreboard against anybody.
Although the Bluejays have a very impressive resume, they suffered a three- game slide to begin February before recovering over their past two outings. SMC has only gotten better as the season has progressed. Both these teams appear to be destined for this year's Big Dance which could make this BracketBuster matchup a key to their eventual seeding.
Game Date and Time