March 16, 2014
By Richard Finn
Special to BIGEAST.com
NEW YORK - It was a first half of tournament and season firsts for Creighton in its first BIG EAST Tournament presented by NEW YORK Life championship game against Providence Saturday night.
Unfortunately they were not the type of firsts that lead to cutting down the Madison Square Garden nets.
• They trailed for the first time in the tournament 26-17.
• The 17 points was a season low for a first half.
• BIG EAST Player of the Year Doug McDermott, who had set a tournament mark of 27 points in the first half against DePaul two nights earlier, had just nine points.
• As a team Creighton made just 1-of-12 from the three-point line.
Add it all up and it was too big of a hole for the Bluejays to overcome despite a spirited and furious closing rally as they fell to Providence 65-58.
“Obviously we’re disappointed with our play in the first half,” said Creighton coach Greg McDermott.
Ten minutes into the game the high octane Creighton offense had managed just nine points.
“In the first 17 possessions we scored on four of those possessions and had five turnovers,” said Coach McDermott. “I think the guys were trying to do a little too much. It’s a big stage. There’s a lot on the line. I think part of that’s human nature.”
A bigger part was likely a very active zone defense that Providence coach Ed Cooley sprung on the Bluejays.
“It was a gut feeling, “said Cooley of his decision to go with a zone.
“That zone kind of threw us off to start the game,” said Doug. “I thought we were kind of panicking almost to start the game and rushing stuff and not making the extra passes.”
Said Coach McDermott, “I didn’t think our ball movement, our spacing again their zone wasn’t where it needed to be. I thought there was a little bit of a sense of panic at times with a few of our turnovers and maybe a couple of rushed shots.”
It was a different Creighton team and different game in the second half. A three-pointer from way behind the arc by McDermott made it a 58-56 Friar lead with 1:17 left.
“I really thought we were going to win that game,” said Doug. “Things just felt right up there. We had the best effort of the season down the final stretch and that’s really good to see as a leader, just seeing everyone fight for each other with so much on the line.”
But, that was as close as the Bluejays could get. LaDontae Henton hit a jumper with the shot clocking near zero for a 60-56 lead with 45 seconds to play, and clutch foul shooting from the Friars finished the game.
The season, however, is not finished for the Bluejays (27-6) as they await for selection Sunday to find out where they will be going in the NCAA Tournament.
“This is where we wanted to be, to be able to celebrate on Selection Sunday and we’re in a position where we can do that now, “said Doug, who finished with 27 points. “As much as it stings right now, the best is yet to come for us.”