Greensboro, N.C. — Creighton’s season ended Sunday afternoon as it fell to the third overall seed in the tournament, the University of North Carolina, by a score of 87-73.
The Jays offense had a hard time competing with the firepower that UNC presented. The Tar Heels had five players in double figures and were led by Kendall Marshall who put up 18 points and 11 assists. Sophomore forward Doug McDermott led all scorers with 20 points on 8-19 shooting and added nine rebounds.
The start of the game was delayed by 15 minutes when the Jays’ bus driver had a heart attack on the way to the game. An ambulance arrived to take the man to the hospital and another bus driver came to take the Creighton players to the Greensboro Coliseum.
“That really put things into perspective for us and was a great teaching moment for our team because really we can’t forget that this is a game,” head coach Greg McDermott said. “I don’t know Bill’s last name, our bus driver, I hope he’s doing fine, but that was a scary deal. His health and how his family’s doing is certainly more important than who wins or loses a basketball game.”
Once the Jays hit they court they got off to a strong start and had a two-point lead with 15:37 remaining in the first half. Gibbs had two steals in the opening minutes, which helped provide a defensive spark in the opening minutes. Gibbs also found himself in an altercation with UNC forward John Henson, which resulted in Henson being hit with a technical foul.
The technical seemed to have ignited the crowd however, and brought UNC’s offense to life. The Tar Heels started rolling and Creighton eventually found itself down by as many as 15 points with just over five minutes remaining.
Creighton keep battling with UNC however, and went on a 7-0 run to end the half, which put them down by a score of 43-35 with one half to play. McDermott fueled the offensive attack for Creighton with 11 points, while junior center Greg Echenique and senior guard Antoine Young added eight points each.
The Jays shot only 37.5 percent from the field in the first half and converted only two of eight 3-point attempts.
UNC was not as offensively challenged as it saw five players with over six points, including Marshall who hit 6-7 shots for 13 points. UNC shot 54.5 percent as a team. Marshall would later fracture his wrist on a foul by sophomore forward Ethan Wragge.
UNC stretched the lead in the second half and were up by as many as 19 points with 14:01 remaining in the game. Creighton would not get it back to single digits for the rest of the game and would see its season come to an end in the round of 32.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my basketball team and our basketball program,” Greg McDermott said. “It’s been a remarkable ride. My good friend Bill Fennelly at Iowa State once told me, I don’t know where he got it, but he said ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.’”
North Carolina shot over 50 percent for the game and only turned the ball over four times in the second half.
“The reality of it is they don’t have anybody you don’t have to guard,” Greg McDermott said. “And that’s – that makes it very difficult.”
Much was made of the Doug McDermott and Harrison Barnes matchup, who were high school teammates and friends. Once the game began though, Doug McDermott said it was just another game.
“There wasn’t too much interaction,” Doug McDermott said. “Right before the game we just shared a moment, but once the game started we were both competitive guys and it didn’t feel weird at all.”
Creighton tied a school record 29 wins this year and advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002. The Jays return nine of their top 10 scorers next year, with Young graduating this spring.