An inability to seal the deal late against ranked opponents has perhaps been Creighton’s biggest frustration this season, but it has encountered no such problems at home. The 23rd-ranked Bluejays attempt to improve to 9-0 in Omaha in 2017-18 on Sunday when they host Providence in an early Big East tilt.
Creighton has held a halftime lead in 12 of its 14 games - including at least a seven-point advantage in each of its last three contests against Top 25 foes - only to watch its first-half superiority go for naught in those critical matchups. “We always talk about wanting to be a great team. In order to be a great team, we are going to have to get over these little humps. We are going to have to figure out how to beat these teams,” Bluejays guard Marcus Foster told reporters after Thursday’s 90-84 loss at No. 24 Seton Hall. The Friars endured a bit of a rocky road during non-conference action, but they enjoyed arguably one of their finest all-around efforts of the season while dismantling St. John’s 94-72 in Thursday’s conference opener. Providence outscored the Red Storm 53-32 in the second half and caught fire from the perimeter over those final 20 minutes, connecting on 11-of-16 of its 3-point attempts.
TV: 2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
ABOUT PROVIDENCE (10-4, 1-0 Big East): Kyron Cartwright (9.5 points, 6.4 assists) returned from a one-game absence due to an ankle injury Thursday and was masterful in leading the offense, finishing with a season-high 21 points as well as 15 assists - tied for the fifth highest single-game total ever by a Friar. Sophomore guard Alpha Diallo (10.8 points, 5.5 rebounds), who had been rendered ineffective for most of the previous four games with his own ankle injury, tallied 16 points and a career-high 12 boards in his return for his second career double-double. Rodney Bullock (team-leading marks of 17.0 points, 6.5 rebounds) has scored at least 20 points in three straight outings, shooting 51.7 percent from the field over that span.
ABOUT CREIGHTON (10-3, 0-1): Foster (team-high 19.1 points) injured his right knee early in the first half and scored only two of his 14 points Thursday after halftime, going 1-for-6 from the floor over the final 20 minutes and partially explaining the Bluejays’ most recent second-half collapse against a ranked foe. Martin Krampelj (12.6 points, team-leading 7.8 rebounds) picked up the offensive slack for the Big East’s fifth-leading scorer, posting his third double-double of the season after scoring a career-high 23 points and collecting 10 boards. Reigning co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year Khyri Thomas (15.1 points) has reached double figures in all but one contest this season and drained at least one 3-pointer in 26 of Creighton’s last 27 games.
1. Creighton has owned a lead of 25 points or more at some point in the first half in each of its last three home games.
2. The Friars rank second in the Big East and 20th in Division I in 3-point accuracy (41.1).
3. The Bluejays, who rank fifth nationally in scoring offense (91.7 points), are outscoring opponents by over 32 points per game at home this season.
PREDICTION: Creighton 93, Providence 87