Friars Rip Creighton, 81-68

Providence College led from start to finish as they defeated the 20th ranked Creighton Blue Jays, 81-68, at the Dunk on Saturday night in front of 11,026 delighted fans. With the win, PC runs its record to 13-5, 3-2 in the Big East and cracks the Top 50 in RPI.

With a third straight win, PC can finally claim a marquee victory. Along with their Top 25 ranking, Creighton entered the game with a 15-2 mark and had yet to lose in its maiden voyage in the Big East, compiling an impressive 5-0 record. With a national player of the year candidate, there was plenty of national spotlight on Saturday's game.

The Friars pulled off the upset by pounding Creighton inside and taking it to the Blue Jays physically. Although the final rebounding total showed PC with a 33-27 advantage, the margin only narrowed in the final four minutes with Providence comfortably ahead. For most of the game, PC crushed Creighton on the glass. At halftime, PC had 7 offensive boards to Creighton's zero and finished with a 15-8 second chance advantage in points.

Creighton's all-everything senior forward, Doug McDermott, echoed the impression left by the Friars. "They punched us in the mouth," he said. "We didn't answer. We are going to have to have a very short memory to bounce back from this and get ready for Villanova on Monday." Ed Cooley was even more emphatic. "We're physical," said Cooley. "That's the way we play. That's who we are. If it were up to me, I'd play even more physical."

Creighton clearly can not survive without McDermott at his best. "They run everything through him. Everything," said Cooley. Battling a stomach issue, McDermott was far from his all-world best. He missed a wide open layup to start, and an open three shortly thereafter, leading to a quick Friar getaway out of the gates. He finished with 21 points, on 8-15 shooting and 7 rebounds, but missed both three point attempts and never found a groove.

Kadeem Batts fell into foul trouble guarding McDermott and the job eventually fell to Ted Bancroft. Bancroft versus McDermott would seem to be a glaring mismatch, with a First Team All-American attacking a former walk-on, but Bancroft more than held his own, often frustrating McDermott with physical defense. In the second half, McDermott attempted to drive, but Bancroft stole the ball and fed LaDontae Henton for a layup and one. In addition, Bancroft hit a 12 foot right baseline jumper to give PC a 37-30 halftime lead.

Bryce Cotton and Henton were again superb. Cotton once again played all 40 minutes and tallied 23 points and 6 assists and hit two early threes that sparked the Friars to an early lead. "People keep asking me when I'm going to take Cotton out," remarked Cooley. "He'll come out when he graduates." Meanwhile, Henton played a largely unappreciated game, scoring 19 points, hitting two big threes and driving right at Creighton's big men. Rounding out the double figure scorers were Batts with 13, and Josh Fortune and Tyler Harris, with 10 each. Carson Desrosiers chipped in with three second half blocks.

Key for the Friars was their perimeter defense. "We preached threes, threes, threes," said Cooley. "They shoot a ton of threes." For the game, Creighton shot just 4-19 three pointers (compared with PC's 7-20) and was outshot in the contest, 51% to 49%. In addition, the nations' leading team in assists per game, at 19.1, racked up just 9.

Creighton will clearly need to retool after this season to remain competitive in the Big East. Not many of their bench players look able to step in to keep them on an elite level. They lose McDermott, Ethan Wragge, an undersized but sweet shooting center, Jahenns Manigat, a quick guard and Grant Gibbs, their big point guard who missed the game with an injury. McDermott was asked to compare Missouri Valley Conference players with Big East players and replied, "Big East players are definitely a level up. They are more athletic and long." Creighton lacks that athleticism and length, especially in the frontcourt.

For the Friars, the game was huge on several levels. With an RPI now at 48, PC is back in bubble discussions. The road win at St. John's cancelled out the home Seton Hall loss and the Creighton win adds to the resume. PC will have to protect home court, especially in the next two games, against Butler and Xavier, because their schedule is backloaded with a lot of road games. The next week will be interesting as PC continues to push forward.

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