Big East Conference Tournament Recaps|
(Saturday, March 15th)
Final Score: Providence 65, (14) Creighton 58
New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Selection Sunday won't be quite so nerve-
wracking for the Providence Friars anymore.
With Bryce Cotton outgunning Doug McDermott for much of the game, the Friars
captured only their second-ever Big East Tournament title with a stunning
65-58 victory over 14th-ranked Creighton that secured an automatic bid for one
of the NCAA Tournament's firm bubble teams.
Cotton led the way with 23 points and LaDontae Henton came down with 13
rebounds while netting four crucial points down the stretch, a clutch jumper
with 45.6 seconds remaining and two late free throws that helped Providence
(23-11) earn a spot in the NCAA field for the first time since 2004.
"Our game plan today was to make sure we got to the foul line and got to the
rim, and we wanted to play defense with the ball. It's almost like a football
team that runs the ball to make sure that we dictated tempo," Providence head
coach Ed Cooley said.
The Friars' only previous Big East Tournament championship came in 1994, when
they topped Georgetown in the final as a No. 4 seed. Providence entered this
event as a fourth seed as well.
McDermott overcame a frustrating first half to finish with 27 points on 10-
of-19 shooting, but the Bluejays' potent attack was largely kept in check by
a stifling Friars' defense that limited the Big East's highest scoring team to
a mere 17 points over the opening period.
"I thought we were kind of panicking almost to start the game, and rushing
stuff and not making the extra passes," McDermott said.
Avery Dingman was the only other double-digit scorer for Creighton (26-7),
registering 10 points while hitting all five of his field goal attempts.
McDermott was held to a modest nine points in the first half while drawing
constant double teams, and he didn't get much help from his teammates as the
Bluejays shot an alarming 1-of-12 from 3-point range over the initial 20
The Friars rendered Creighton scoreless for more than five minutes during one
stretch, a 9-0 run in which Cotton accounted for the first seven points to
stake Providence to a 17-9 lead with 7:56 to go in the period.
Creighton appeared to briefly get out of its funk when layups by McDermott
and Dingman on back-to-back possessions cut its deficit to 18-15. However,
Josh Fortune hit three straight free throws after being fouled from beyond the
arc, jump-starting a 6-0 spurt that pushed Providence's margin to 24-15 with
less than a minute remaining in the half.
The Friars kept the pressure on after the break, with the lead stretching to
47-35 following Cotton's successful jumper with 12 minutes left.
Creighton remained down by double digits past the midway mark of the second
half, but McDermott regained his stroke to spark an 11-4 push that got the
Bluejays right back in it. The Big East Player of the Year started and ended
the flurry with 3-pointers, the last pulling his team within 56-53 with 2:29
left to play.
Another deep three from McDermott shortly after further closed the gap,
trimming Providence's lead to 58-56 entering the final minute. Henton then
delivered perhaps the game's biggest shot, a contested 19-footer that swished
through with 45.6 seconds left to create a two-possession game once more.
The Friars then forced McDermott to attempt a shot well beyond the 3-point
line that hit the front of the rim, with Henton corralling the rebound and
making both shots from the line to put the Friars up 62-56 with 29.7 seconds
on the clock.
McDermott opted to drive the lane on Creighton's next trip down the court, but
his off-balance layup was no good and the ball landed out of bounds to
Providence, all but sealing the Friars' first Big East title in 20 years.
Creighton's 17 first-half points were a season low, surpassing a 24-point
output in a loss to George Washington in the Wooden Legacy tournament on Dec.
1 ... McDermott poured in a career-high 45 points in the teams' most recent
meeting, an 88-73 Bluejays' win in Omaha last Saturday ... Providence finished
23-of-26 from the foul line ... The Friars handed Creighton two of its seven
losses this season, having earned an 81-68 home win on Jan. 18 ... The
Bluejays were seeking a third consecutive conference tournament title, having
won the Missouri Valley in each of the previous two seasons.
03/16 01:12:36 ET