It was a rainy and cold night in Tulsa, Okla., and despite the fact that I live about six blocks from the Reynolds Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa, I decided to drive to see if I could get a closer parking spot and not have to walk as far in the rain. After a few minutes of driving around the neighborhood, I found a spot on the street that was probably four blocks from the Reynolds Center. So all in all I didn't save myself much walking.
The rain wasn't too bad as I made my way to the arena, but as I approached the ticket window I noticed a sign that said "Cash Only." I pulled out my wallet, and as I feared, I had no cash. With no ATM in sight and the player introductions starting, I quickly made my way back to my car in the rain that had picked up in intensity. By the time I made it back to the car, my head was thoroughly soaked, but my water-resistant jacket was holding up OK. I rushed home to see if I could find some cash. Fortunately, my fiancee had just arrived home and had the $10 (a $5, four $1s and four quarters) I needed to gain entrance to the game.
In another attempt to avoid as much rain as possible and miss as little of the game as possible, my fiancee dropped me off across the street from the Reynolds Center. I ran to the ticket window, bought my ticket and rushed in to the arena. I finally settled in to my seat with 14:38 left to play, just as the game hit the under-16 timeout with Creighton up 14-9.
The first thing I noticed about the Reynolds Center when I sat down was the fancy new video board that had been installed above the court. It featured four HD screens -- two longer screens parallel to the sidelines and two shorter screens parallel to the baselines. It was yet another sign of the sports bubble as it was chiefly sponsored by a fortune 500 company based in Tulsa and had a striking resemblance to the large video board over the playing field at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Despite the new scoreboard, the Reynolds Center wasn't large enough to cause you to get stuck watching the game on the video board rather than the actual play on the court, which is known to be a common occurrence at Cowboys Stadium.
The first half of the game was a fast-paced back-and-forth affair as the two teams rushed up and down the floor. After the timeout, Tulsa senior forward Joe Richard triggered a small 9-5 run for his team with a monstrous putback dunk. The run led to a 20-19 lead for Tulsa at the 11:13 mark. This would be the only time Tulsa would lead the entire game. With the crowd standing and cheering, Creighton made its way down the floor, and star sophomore forward Doug McDermott quickly silenced the crowd with a lay-in.
After the under-8 timeout, a theme quickly emerged: It was McDermott's world and we were all just living in it. The 6-foot-7 forward, and one of the front-runners for the Missouri Valley Player of the Year, took over the game from the paint. On his way to 19 first-half points, McDermott controlled the inside, receiving feed after feed from guard Grant Gibbs and executing post move after post move on the overmatched Tulsa forwards. He made it look easy most of the time.
Despite the impressive performance from McDermott, the Creighton defense was not as effective, and Tulsa was able to keep it close at the half, trailing 42-34.
The second half started off with another Creighton player dominating; this time it was senior Venezuelan center Gregory Echenique. Three minutes in, the second-half score was Echenique 9, Tulsa 0. The Tulsa big men could not contain the 270-pound beast on either end of the floor as he attacked the basket on offense and on the boards. The only thing that stopped Echenique was his early third foul that forced him to take a seat on the bench. Sophomore guard Jordan Clarkson was finally able to get Tulsa on the board in the second half with a free throw, but Tulsa was not able to get its first field goal until 5 minutes had passed in the second half. By this point, the Creighton lead had ballooned to 53-37. With Echenique's absence, McDermott took over once again, taking his talents to the perimeter as well as inside. McDermott's second half accomplishments were highlighted by an amazing shot clock-beating turnaround #superhoop midway through the half.
By the under-8 timeout, Creighton had stretched the lead to 69-51. The Tulsa fans were starting to get frustrated with their team's play and, as most fans do, started taking it out on the referees. Their frustration boiled over on one play in particular at the 7:30 mark when Tulsa was inbounding the ball after a made basket by Creighton. The ball was inbounded to freshman guard Eric McClellan. With the Creighton defense waiting on the other end of the court, McClellan fumbled the inbounds pass, and it scooted toward the sideline. McClellan tried to save the ball but instead knocked it square against the back of the legs of Greg McDermott, the Creighton coach and father of Doug McDermott who was standing near the sideline and facing away from the inbound pass as he was yelling out to his players on the other end of the court. Unaware that the ball was heading for him, McDermott was unable to move out of the way, and the ball hit him while he was standing out of bounds. As he was in the legal coaching box and not on the court to interfere while the action was near him, the nearby referee quickly, and correctly, called the ball out of bounds and possession to Creighton. The fans did not like this call at all and immediately started calling for a technical foul on Greg McDermott. One particularly vocal fan on the front row along the baseline (actually about 15 feet beyond the baseline and behind a row of media seats) leaped out of his chair and walked all the way up to the media tables in front of him to yell out his displeasure.
With around seven minutes to play, Creighton started to get sloppy, and Tulsa began chipping away at the lead. Tulsa was able to take the lead down to 11 at the two minute mark with an 11-2 run. However, after a Gibbs jumper for Creighton and a missed shot by Clarkson, time was running short, and Tulsa was forced to start fouling. Creighton made all six free throws down the stretch while Tulsa was unable to put the ball in the basket, sealing the 83-64 victory. To punctuate Doug McDermott's dominance on the night, he finished with a career-high 35 points on 16-of-23 shooting.
Although this was labeled a #RLU by #TMM8 standards, Creighton was the nationally ranked team on the floor, and it clearly showed. The Bluejays dominated for most of the game even with one of their key players on the bench with foul trouble. Although it's nearly impossible to go undefeated in the always brutal Valley conference schedule, Creighton certainly has the talent to do it. But I suspect the people in Wichita, Terre Haute and Cedar Falls will have something to say about that.
CREIGHTON 83, at TULSA 64 12/19/2011
CREIGHTON 9-1 (0-0) -- D. McDermott 16-23 1-1 35; G. Gibbs 2-6 5-6 9; A. Young 6-13 2-4 14; J. Manigat 1-1 2-2 4; E. Wragge 1-3 0-0 3; G. Echenique 4-5 1-1 9; J. Jones 1-3 0-0 2; W. Artino 2-2 1-2 5; A. Dingman 1-1 0-0 2; A. Chatman 0-1 0-0 0; T. Stormberg 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-58 12-16 83. TULSA 5-7 (0-0) -- S. Haralson 3-8 0-0 8; J. Clarkson 5-15 4-5 14; T. Peete 5-12 0-0 12; D. Magley 2-5 2-5 6; E. McClellan 2-6 1-5 6; S. Idlet 3-5 1-2 7; K. Maduka 3-4 1-2 7; J. Richard 2-2 0-0 4; D. Wishon 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-58 9-19 64.
Three-point goals: CREI 3-6 (J. Jones 0-1; E. Wragge 1-3; D. McDermott 2-2), TULS 5-16 (S. Haralson 2-6; J. Clarkson 0-3; T. Peete 2-6; E. McClellan 1-1); Rebounds: CREI 32 (G. Gibbs 7), TULS 27 (S. Idlet 6); Assists: CREI 16 (G. Gibbs 10), TULS 11 (T. Peete 4); Total Fouls -- CREI 19, TULS 14; Fouled Out: CREI-G. Echenique; TULS-None.