Balanced attack leads No. 25 Creighton past Providence
OMAHA, Neb. — No. 25 Creighton bounced back from Thursday’s hard-luck loss at Seton Hall with an 83-64 Big East Conference victory over Providence on Sunday.
Marcus Foster led five Creighton players in double figures with 18 points. Toby Hegner finished with 15 points and Martin Krampelj had 13 points and a team-leading eight rebounds. The 12 points by Davion Mintz and 11 for Khyri Thomas meant the Bluejays’ starting five finished with 69 of Creighton’s 83 points.
Providence center Nate Watson led all players with 20 points, and Friars forward Rodney Bullock had a game-high 10 rebounds to go with 15 points.
The Bluejays opened Big East play with a 90-84 road setback to the Pirates after leading the game by 13 points early in the second half. Meanwhile, the Friars got off to a roaring start in conference play with a 22-point road victory over St. John’s.
“Obviously we were all very disappointed with the last three minutes and the way we played at the end of the Seton Hall game,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “You’ve got to turn the page fast, and to these guys’ credit, we watched the film in the morning, then went to work on Providence. I thought we really executed the plan well.”
Creighton (11-3, 1-1 Big East) broke open a tight game with a 9-0 run in the middle of the first half that turned a two-point lead to a 25-14 advantage. Providence (10-5, 1-1) went 6:18 between baskets and was 5 of 22 (22.8 percent) from the field for the first 13-plus minutes of the game.
After missing 11 straight shots, the closest the Friars could get in the final six minutes before halftime was six points (27-21). The one consistent offensive threat Providence had was Watson, who led all players with 13 points in the opening 20 minutes.
“I thought we left a lot of points on the board in the first half,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “We couldn’t get it together. Six missed layups, we had nine turnovers in the first half. I thought the game was still in hand at halftime (but) they came up with a five- or six-(point) run and that kind of put us behind the eight-ball. We could never catch up.”
Creighton went to the intermission with a 39-29 lead. The Bluejays were 15 of 31 (48.4 percent) from the field, and Thomas led the Jays with nine points.
The Bluejays scored three times in the first 1:04 of the second half to take a 45-29 lead. Providence couldn’t get closer than 13 points the rest of the way as the Bluejays continued to push the offensive pace.
“That’s been a thing with us, coming out the second half and letting teams get a little more of what they want,” Bluejays forward Ronnie Harrell Jr. said. “So we were very conscious of keeping each other locked in and knowing that if we mess up on communication, easy things like that can lead to an easy bucket.”
McDermott was pleased to see the strong break from the halftime gate that allowed the Jays to keep playing their style the rest of the game.
“Offensively I thought we did a pretty good job when they didn’t score on their first four possessions you take a 10-point game and make it a 15-, 16-point game right away,” McDermott said. “Now they’re playing catch up. That’s really important.”
Creighton’s biggest lead was 23 points when a 3-pointer by Foster put the Bluejays ahead 80-57 with 3:54 remaining in the game.
NOTES: The victory improved Creighton’s record in Sunday home games at CenturyLink Center to 32-1. The last time Creighton suffered a Sunday home loss was Jan. 9, 2005, when the Bluejays were still members of the Missouri Valley Conference, to Southern Illinois. Creighton has won 36 of 37 Sunday home games since Feb. 4, 2002. ... In November, the Friars set a school record by making 9 of 10 3-point attempts. In Sunday’s loss the Friars made just 3 of 23 (13 percent) from behind the arc. ... The Bluejays have started Big East Conference play 1-1 for the third straight season. A loss Sunday would have put Creighton at 0-2 in the Big East for the first time since 2014-15, the Jays second season in the conference. ... The Bluejays host St. John’s Wednesday before traveling to Georgetown for a Saturday afternoon showdown with the Hoyas. ... Providence will play two home games this week, hosting Marquette Wednesday before welcoming Xavier on Saturday.