It's been nearly eleven years since CenturyLink Center opened in Downtown Omaha, NE. Built as a replacement for the Omaha Civic Auditorium - once the home of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in the 1970s - the arena then known as the Qwest Center served as the new home arena for the Creighton Bluejays after more than 40 years in the Auditorium.
At the time, Creighton's basketball program was continuing to grow. Led by Cornhusker native Dana Altman, now the head coach at Oregon, the Bluejays jumped from a 7-22 team before Altman's arrival, to a perennial threat to win the Missouri Valley Conference. After winning four conference tournaments in five years, Creighton had finally outgrown the Civic Auditorium, so they packed their bags (and .737 winning percentage inside the Civic) and moved into a brand, spanking new arena that would bolster the program and give college basketball one of its best venues.
But while CenturyLink Center has seen its fair share of great moments, its greatest was served as an appropriate sendoff for the program's greatest player.
As great as Dana Altman was as a coach, winning over 60% of his games in his 16 years in Omaha, his departure to Oregon was a blessing in disguise. As a matter of fact, it's a great thing Altman had a change of heart in 2007 when he decided Arkansas and their money wasn't worth leaving Creighton. Eventually he did, and both instances led to the hiring of Greg McDermott, a former rival coach at Northern Iowa who was going through a rough four-year stretch at Iowa State.
Accompanying him was his son, Doug, who decommitted from Northern Iowa to play for his dad in Omaha. It wasn't evident back then, but Doug would become the single most important player in Bluejay history.
To name off Doug McDermott's accolades would take forever, and there's a good chance BECB has thrown them down your throat over the last year anyway, so we will spare you time and fast-forward to the very end of McDermott's Bluejay career: His final home game at CenturyLink Center.
It was the evening of March 8th earlier this year. A record crowd of 18,868 rabid Creighton fans filed into CenturyLink - a far cry from the 9,000-plus that would sell out the Civic - to see history. Their hero, the one they so generously hail as Dougie McBuckets, was just 34 points away from reaching the 3000-point mark - something only seven other Division I players have accomplished.
Standing in their way was a Providence squad that would eventually beat them in the Big East Championship game. Winners of four of their last five, the Friars were looking to build some momentum en route to New York. LaDontae Henton scored 21 points, and Bryce Cotton, second-leading scorer in the Big East, would score all 23 of Providence's second-half points.
But this night was reserved for Creighton. This night was Doug McDermott's swan song. And did he ever put on a performance.
McDermott started the night eight points behind Oscar Robertson on the NCAA scoring list. It didn't take him long to surpass the Big O. McDermott knocked down two three pointers and 10 straight as part of a 24-5 run that pulled the Bluejays away from Providence. Dougie would drop 22 first-half points and Creighton led 45-22 at the end of the first half.
The good vibes would continue after halftime. A long pass from Devin Brooks led to a McDermott jam that brought the CenturyLink crowd to its feet. The ovation would grow even louder minutes later. Sitting at 2,998 points, McDermott knew he needed two points to make history.
So he rebelled, and sinked a three.
It's only appropriate that a long ball put Doug McDermott into a fraternity of 8, with names like Hawkins, Ford, Simmons, and Maravich. The legend was solidified on that night's 88-73 win over the Friars. After years of being under the radar in contrast to the spotlight that shined on other stars over his college career like Anthony Davis and several members of the Parker-Wiggins class, no star shined brighter that night than McDermott's.
And right there to bask in the glory one last time was the crowd at CenturyLink Center.
What's your favorite CenturyLink Center moment? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.