Like the heavy snowstorm swirling outside, 10th ranked Creighton blew into the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and recorded their first ever win in the building by sweeping away Providence, 78-64 in front of 8,176 brave souls. The Blue Jays, losers only to Villanova this season, certainly looked the part of a team primed to go deep in March.
The 15-1 Jays looked close to unstoppable offensively. The highest scoring team in the nation, Creighton came into the game shooting 53 percent from the floor and 45 percent from three and did nothing to hurt those numbers against the Friars. Complicating matters for PC was the loss of point guard Kyron Cartwright to a right knee injury with about 7 minutes to play in the first half. Yet the Friars gamely hung in for the game’s first 30 minutes.
Creighton jumped out to a 10-0 lead and Friar fans weren’t able to sit down until the first media timeout was almost upon them, as Emmitt Holt broke inside for a layup on a missed jumper to put PC on the board. Providence quickly clawed back into the game, pulling to within 17-14 on a Alpha Diallo three. PC caught the Blue Jays at 27-all with 5 minutes to play on a Holt basket and it was 31-31 with 3:43 to play when Marcus Foster missed a three and Justin Patton flew in for a rebound dunk. From there, Creighton went to the half up 39-33.
A Jalen Lindsey three, Holt layup and Isaiah Jackson bucket pulled PC to within 41-40 but that was as close as Providence would get. A Diallo free throw made it 59-54 with just over 10 minutes to play and the Friars went ice cold, allowing Creighton to slowly build their lead.
A Foster three pushed Creighton to a double digit lead at 68-58 with 7 minutes left and the Jays were home free. After closing to within 59-54, PC ended the game hitting just 2 for 17 from the field over the final nine-and-a-half minutes; until Kalif Young hit two baskets in the last 48 seconds. The lead peaked at 19, 78-59, with 50 seconds left.
Against a team like Creighton, offensive droughts are killers. PC’s first four minutes of the game, last three minutes of the first half and final ten minutes of the second half made it impossible for the Friars to stay with the high octane offense that Greg McDermott has fashioned. Although sick for the past few days, senior point guard Maurice Watson managed 11 points, a season-high 14 assists and just 2 turnovers. Watson penetrated the lane at will and dished for easy baskets at the rim and several alley-oops to redshirt freshman standout Patton.
The Jays shot 56 percent (33-59) from the floor and 41 percent from three (7-17). About the only negatives for their offensive machine were only getting to the free throw line 7 times (made 5) and getting outrebounded 42-27. Patton is a revelation. A 7-footer with skills, Patton (20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks) sometimes gets lost defensively but can put the ball on the floor, step out and make jumpers and is deadly around the basket.
Foster contributed 17 points and Omaha native Kylie Thomas repeatedly snuck inside for baskets for his 16 points on 8-11 shooting.
For Providence, the loss of Cartwright hurt. PC might have kept this a competitive game in the final ten minutes with their leader but the offense looked lost without him. Thrust into a significant role running the team, Maliek White had 4 points and 2 assists but struggled on the defensive end and in directing the offense. Holt was the standout for the Friars, battling Patton inside for 17 points, 7 boards and 2 blocks and making several key baskets.
In addition, Lindsey added 11 points despite appearing to injure his wrist and thumb on a second half fall to the floor. Young had 9 points and 9 rebounds, although he scored four of those points at the very end of the game and missed several defensive assignments. Diallo and Jackson each contributed 8 points and looked solid. Aside from Cartwright’s injury and absence, Rodney Bullock’s frustrating afternoon was a key factor in undermining PC’s upset hopes. Bullock shot just 3-13 and had 6 points and 4 rebounds in a disappointing performance. To compete with the top level teams in the Big East, Providence needs more from Bullock.
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Health will be a prime concern as PC faces a quick around, with a 9 p.m. tip against DePaul in Chicago on Tuesday evening.