In his four games against Wichita State, Doug McDermott has averaged 10.8 points while shooting 43.6 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from 3-point range.
In 88 other games, the Creighton junior has averaged 20.1 points while shooting 57.1 percent from the floor and 46.1 percent from beyond the arc.
So what do the Shockers do defensively that a lot of other teams are unable to do against the All-America forward?
“We put an emphasis on defense and we put an emphasis on very good players,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “He’s a very good player. We try to limit his touches and always be there to contest. We try not to give him anything easy.
“He probably gets two or three baskets a game just by beating other people down the floor. He does a great job of getting out in transition. We try to limit those opportunities. It’s cliché, but we try to really make him work for everything. And, then on the other end, we try to make him guard a little bit.”
McDermott has scored 7, 11, 12 and 13 points in the games against the Shockers. His high-point game came last February in Omaha but he took 14 shots and made just five in the loss.
McDermott knows he’ll again be the focus of Wichita State’s defensive pressure Saturday when the teams meet at Koch Arena in Wichita. McDermott comes into the game averaging 24.0 points — 25.8 in six Missouri Valley games — while shooting 56.8 percent from the floor and 50.7 percent on 3-point attempts.
McDermott acknowledges that he’s gotten few easy looks in his first four meetings against the Shockers.
“They have physical guys that are athletic,” he said. “They haven’t necessarily face-guarded me, but they’re always around. It’s frustrating, but it does open different looks for my teammates. I just have to fight through that.”
Creighton coach Greg McDermott agrees.
“If they come with some double teams,” the coach said, “Doug has to make them pay.”
McDermott has improved that part of his game this season. He has 32 assists in the Bluejays’ 17-1 start. A season ago, McDermott had 37 assists in 35 games while getting 45 in 39 games as a freshman.
Marshall has built his program on a bedrock of defense and rebounding. The Shockers enter Saturday’s game leading the Valley in both statistical categories, allowing an average of 59.9 points per game while outrebounding opponents by an average of 8.6 per game.
“They’re aggressive defensively, they’re physical defensively and they can turn you over and turn those into points,” Greg McDermott said. “They carry their physical defense over to their rebounding. They’re very aggressive rebounding on both ends.
“They’ve found a way to win with defense when three of their players went down, and they’ve gotten gradually better on offense.”
The Shockers have played their last eight games without three players — Carl Hall, Evan Wessel and Ron Baker — who were early-season starters. Hall will play against Creighton, having returned to action Wednesday against Illinois State. He had two points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes.
The Shockers held Illinois State to 32.8 percent field-goal shooting, including 24 percent in the first 20 minutes. The Redbirds shot 22.7 percent from 3-point range and missed all 10 of their attempts from beyond the arc in the first half.
“That was very gratifying,” Marshall said after the game. “Being a defensive-minded coach and knowing that we struggle at times offensively, defense has to be a prerequisite. If we’re not doing it, we struggle, and I don’t like to struggle.”
Wichita State’s defensive ability has the admiration of Doug McDermott.
“It’s pretty incredible what Gregg Marshall has done there with his personnel changing almost every year,” he said. “The one thing is they always come out and defend you. That’s always going to be consistent when you play them.
“That’s something our program can build off. Seeing teams like that succeed, we know if we can play defense like that good things can happen.”