McDermott converted a three-point play with 4.9 seconds remaining to lead Creighton to an 83-79 victory over Saint Joseph's Saturday night.
"Doug has played a lot of basketball, this was his first game-winner, so it's about time," said Creighton coach Greg McDermott, who is Doug's father. "I was proud of the way he stayed patient and still found a way to get 20."
McDermott, who averaged 28.5 points per game entering, was hounded all game by double-teams but finished with 20 points.
No basket was bigger than his final one. McDermott took an inbounds pass from the left side of St. Joseph's basket, caught and shot in one motion from 20 feet. He made the shot and the ensuing free throw for Creighton (3-0).
"It was just a great look," McDermott said of Grant Gibbs' inbounds pass. "He made a great read. I saw they kind of miscommunicated on a screen and I was able to get open for a split second. It's really exciting."
Ethan Wragge made a career-high seven 3-pointers for 21 points, and Devin Brooks added 16 for the Blue Jays.
"That was a terrific college basketball game, one of the better ones I've been a part of," Greg McDermott said. " I'm not sure we're necessarily the better team, we just made one more play tonight."
St. Joseph's (2-1) took the lead when Ronald Roberts converted a pair of free throws with 27.5 seconds remaining.
"I think we missed a communication," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "We have to do better than that. We have to win that game."
Bembry finished with 20 points to lead four St. Joseph's players in double figures. Despite the loss, Martelli liked his team's effort.
"They have a really nice team, but I was really impressed with the guys in my locker room," Martelli said. "I have a really great team. There are pieces missing, basketball pieces. These guys, you can't wait to get to work with them in every aspect. . I really, really, really enjoy this team."
The teams combined to shoot 51.3 percent from the field, including 47.2 percent from the arc.
St. Joe's trailed by two points with under a minute left when Ronald Roberts grabbed a rebound after Langston Galloway's 18-foot miss. Roberts was fouled on the putback attempt and made both free throws to give the Hawks a 79-78 advantage with 27.5 seconds remaining before McDermott's heroics.
Creighton erased a five-point halftime deficit by outscoring St. Joe's 12-6 over the first 3:43 of the second half, taking a 52-51 lead on Austin Chatman's jumper. It was the Blue Jays' first advantage since 2-0. Consecutive 3-pointers by Galloway and Bembry put the Hawks back in front, 57-52, with just over 14 minutes remaining.
But the Blue Jays got three 3-pointers from Wragge during a dominating six-minute stretch in which they outscored St. Joe's 18-5 to take their largest lead, 70-62, with 7:55 remaining. And Creighton's lead was seven with 4:13 to play after McDermott's layup, but the Hawks scored five quick points to close within 74-72 with 3:17 left before going in front for the final time on Roberts' free throws.
McDermott, the nation's returning leading scorer has scored 57 points in 51 minutes through two games. But he went scoreless for the first 10:35 against St. Joe's, which was doubling the Creighton star at every opportunity. McDermott finished the first half with 8 points.