Arthur Kaluma, who scored 17 points, was the key to Creighton’s stunning 85-58 victory over No. 11 Providence, and into Friday’s Big East championship game.
Alex O’Connell scored 18 points, while Ryan Kalkbrenner had 15 points and nine rebounds. The fourth-seeded Bluejays (20-10) reached the conference final for the first time since joining the league in the 2013-14 season.
They are still searching for their first Big East Tournament title.
Creighton’s Trey Alexander scored all fifteen of his points in the second half. Creighton has almost secured a bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning nine out of eleven games. The Bluejays are now 4-2 after losing Ryan Nembhard (the Big East freshman of year) to a season-ending wrist injury.
Surprise Bluejays were ranked eighth in the Big East Preseason Poll with no starters back last year’s Sweet 16 squad. They will face Villanova, which is ranked second, and UConn, which is ranked third, for Saturday night’s crown at Madison Square Garden.
Al Durham scored 21 points in a miserable night for the top-seeded Friars (25-2), who won their first regular season conference championship. This was after 43 years as a charter member of the Big East.
This was the worst defeat suffered by a No. It was the most lopsided defeat for a No. 1 seed in Big East Tournament History.
After the game was tied at 25, Kaluma, one the three Bluejays on Big East’s all-freshman team, scored 10 in a 12-0 run which put Creighton ahead. He opened the spurt by scoring a three-pointer and then capped it off with a 3-pointer from his own steal.
After holding Providence to 28% shooting, and 2 for 12 from 3-point range, the Bluejays ranked first in Big East in field goal defense defense (40%) and scoring defense (67.5) during conference games, they went into the break leading 42-27.
Creighton played with swagger and scored the first 14 points of the halftime period. Friars coach Ed Cooley had to call three timeouts within the first four minutes. Durham’s two free throws stopped the 19-0 surge that spanned halftime. This drew a Bronx cheer and was greeted by a large crowd from Providence.
The Bluejays outscored Providence 31-2 in 10 minutes and 35-4 in just over 10 minutes. This gave them a 60-29 cushion.
Nate Watson, a Providence center, bullied Butler down low for 26 points in the quarterfinals. He managed just five points on 2-for-7 shooting. This was in a one-sided matchup against Kalkbrenner (7-foot-1), the Big East defensive player.
Providence won the Big East regular season crown with a 72-51 win over Creighton in their only matchup of this season. This was before a frenetic home crowd on February 26th.
Bluejays coach Greg McDermott stated Thursday that they played them on Thursday. “That place was electrifying. The town was rocking. They kind of came after us in the second half. “We weren’t able to find our feet.”
COVID-19 protocols prevented the other scheduled meeting from going ahead. The rematch was however very different.
McDermott stated, “Our men have a lot pride.”
A.J., Providence’s starting guard. After colliding with Creighton forward Ryan Hawkins, Reeves was shaken and walked off the court. The Bluejays were up by 29 and 8 minutes remaining.
Creighton: The Bluejays have been 4-0 in the conference tournament semifinals, but 0-3 at the championship games since joining the Big East in 2013-14. This includes a loss to No. 8 seed Georgetown last season.
McDermott stated that he had not been able “to kick the door down and win Big East championship,” he said to Hawkins.
Providence: This lopsided loss will be criticized by those who feel the Friars are lucky to have won so many close games. It’s been an exciting ride through the Big East in one of the most memorable seasons in school history. Now they can relax and enjoy a very high NCAA Tournament seed on Selection Sunday.
Creighton split two games with Villanova in the early part of the regular season. The home team won each game by a large margin.
The Bluejays beat UConn, winning 64-62 at home March 2.