NEWARK, N.J. — Doug McDermott proved to be every bit the handful that Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard feared he'd be in Saturday's game.
But it was McDermott's supporting cast, Willard said, that ultimately kept his Pirates from mounting much of a threat in Creighton's 79-66 win that sucked the energy out of Seton Hall's season-high turnout of 7,060 at the Prudential Center.
“They're a terrific basketball team,” Willard said. “What makes them really tough is that everyone knows his role. No one guesses who's going to get the shots or the basketball.
“And everyone talks about their offense, but they're also a very good defensive team.”
McDermott scored 30 points — the fifth time this season and 19th time in his career that he's had 30 or more — as the Bluejays cruised to their first-ever Big East road win.
Senior guard Jahenns Manigat added 14 points, reaching double figures in a third straight game for the first time in his career. Grant Gibbs matched his season high with 12 points to go with five rebounds and five assists, while Devin Brooks tacked on 11 in his most productive performance in more than a month.
While McDermott's individual brilliance often attracts the most attention, Creighton coach Greg McDermott said, it's the collective abilities of his team that create headaches for opponents.
“Those guys have played a lot of basketball together, and they have a great feel for one another,” the coach said. “We're not going to outrun you or outjump you, but our guys have a pretty good basketball IQ.
“They understand the difference between a good shot and a great shot, and defensively they try to get in the right place and cover each other's weaknesses. That's a result of playing together for a long time, and we're fortunate we have that.”
In improving to 12-2 with its seventh straight win, Creighton claimed the second victory in its new conference. The Bluejays won their league opener by throttling Marquette on New Year's Eve. That's made for a good first week, Greg McDermott said.
“We got the big home win in the opener out of the way, and we got this first road win out of the way,” he said. “Now we just have to keep taking them one day at a time, turn the page and move on to DePaul.”
The Bluejays left for Chicago after the game for Tuesday's contest against the Blue Demons. Some Seton Hall fans probably wondered if Doug McDermott would be piloting the plane, because he did just about everything else on Saturday.
He scored 22 points in the first half in helping his team build a 45-33 advantage. He grabbed 10 rebounds in posting the 33rd double-double of his career. He matched Gibbs' game-high assists total with a season-high five.
McDermott scored 11 of Creighton's first 13 points to keep the Bluejays even with Seton Hall at a time the Pirates showed some competitiveness. McDermott's two free throws with 14:12 left in the first half gave the Bluejays the lead for good, and he connected on a 3-pointer and followed with a layup to give Creighton its first double-digit lead at 28-18 with 10:23 to play.
“They weren't doubling or tripling me, and that gave me some space,” McDermott said. “I got off to a good start, and I felt like that carried out the rest of the game for our whole team.”
McDermott had just one basket in the first 13 minutes of the second half, but that hardly slowed the Bluejays. Seton Hall managed to trim its 12-point halftime deficit to eight in the first 2½ minutes of the second half, but a 3-point basket by Ethan Wragge, Gibbs' three-point play, another bomb from Wragge and back-to-back 3-pointers by Manigat stretched the lead back to 16 with 14:56 left.
“It's hard to get off to great starts two halves in a row,” Doug McDermott said. “I wasn't being that aggressive, and I was trying to get my teammates involved. Whatever it takes to win, and I thought we did a good job of settling down there.”
Seton Hall (10-5, 1-1) never got closer than 12 points after Manigat's fourth 3-pointer of the game put Creighton ahead 61-46.
“It certainly helps to get Doug going early,” Manigat said. “When he gets on a roll like he did, we try to feed him the ball as much as we can. Not only is he getting himself going, but he gets everyone else going, too.
“He's unselfish with the pass, and I thought that's one thing we did very well tonight. We spread the ball out and found shooters to make shots.”
Creighton shot 46.3 percent from the field, but it was two other statistics that put a smile on its coach's face. Creighton won the rebounding battle 38-27 while committing just four turnovers and racking up 18 assists on 31 baskets.
“We felt like slowing down their transition game and making a difference on the backboards was going to be really important,” Greg McDermott said. “That certainly turned out to be the case.
“With the way (Fuquan) Edwin gets out in the passing lanes and creates offense with his defense, we knew we had to take care of the basketball. Our 18 assists to four turnovers was another key stat.”
Edwin, Seton Hall's second-leading scorer (12.5 average), got just six shots and finished with eight points. Sterling Gibbs led the Pirates with 17 points, but they were hamstrung without two injured big men — 6-foot-9 Eugene Teague and 6-11 Aaron Geramipoor.
Teague is still bothered by a concussion, while Geramipoor has an ankle injury. Their absence put added pressure on 6-9 Brandon Mobley and 6-9 Patrik Auda in trying to slow McDermott.
“Asking Brandon and Patrik to do what they're doing night in and night out without any help is tough,” Willard said. “They were spent out there trying to guard the best player in the country. If there is someone better, I'd like to see him.”
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Video: Coach Greg McDermott after the Creighton-Seton Hall game:
Video: Doug McDermott on the win over Seton Hall:
Video: Check out the recap for Creighton vs. Seton Hall. (highlights)