Providence proves its nerve in road win at Creighton
OMAHA, Neb. — Providence coach Ed Cooley worried for no reason.
The last time his Friars visited CenturyLink Center, they left with a 15-point loss. But that was 10 months ago, when Doug McDermott celebrated his senior night with a career-high 45 point game.
Another crowd of almost 18,000 was waiting for the Friars on Saturday night, but the Creighton team they faced is a far cry from the one of a year ago. This time the Friars trailed for only 34 seconds — after the Bluejays scored the first basket — and they went back to Rhode Island with a 74-65 victory.
”We were really, really nervous coming in with all the energy in the building,” Cooley said. ”The last time we played here we got our doors blown off, so it’s a great team win.”
Kris Dunn scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half to lead three Providence scorers in double figures, and the Friars sent Creighton to its seventh straight loss.
LaDontae Henton added 18 points and Tyler Harris had 13 for the Friars (14-5, 4-2 Big East), who swept the season series with the Bluejays.
James Milliken scored 22 points for Creighton (9-10, 0-6), which has lost its first six conference games for the first time since it went 0-7 to start Missouri Valley play in 1993-94.
Rick Kreklow scored 12 points and Devin Brooks had 10 for the Bluejays, who are under .500 for the first time since they were 13-14 on Feb. 16, 2010.
”It’s not fun,” Kreklow said. ”A lot of the guys have been on a lot of successful teams. Nobody is happy with the results we’ve been getting, but one thing I’ll say is that everyone is sticking together.”
The Friars, coming off a 13-point home loss to St. John’s, broke open the game with a 10-0 spurt after Creighton got within 37-33 early in the second half. Henton made two free throws after Creighton coach Greg McDermott was given a technical for spouting off at the officials, and then he converted a three-point play after muscling his way to the basket against Isaiah Zierden.
The Bluejays, who came into the game off two straight one-point losses, trailed by 14 with 6:55 left. They were within 65-59 with 3:09 left after Devin Brooks sliced through the lane for a layup against Providence’s 2-3 zone defense.
But Dunn’s bank-in with one second on the shot clock and his fade-away jumper in the lane made it 69-59 with 1:47 to play.
”We withstood their run,” Dunn said. ”We locked in, got a couple defensive stops and made shots.”
The Friars made several just as the shot clock was about to expire, and Cooley called those baskets ”back-breakers” for Creighton.
Kreklow said, ”There were a lot of possessions we played solid defense for 28 seconds. You get down to that last 10, make small mistakes, and then they capitalize. It’s tough against a team like that that uses the entirety of the shot clock.”
Providence: The Friars, who beat the Bluejays 65-53 at home on New Year’s Eve, have won four of five meetings since Creighton joined the Big East last year. Kris Dunn, who came into the game leading the nation with 7.6 assists, had seven against Creighton. He also had eight rebounds. Seven-footer Carson Desrosiers had six blocked shots to go with nine points and eight rebounds.
Creighton: McDermott’s technical foul was his first in five seasons at Creighton. The Bluejays wore jerseys with pink letters and numbers as part of the nationwide American Cancer Society Coaches vs. Cancer event. Rick Kreklow, a senior, has had three straight double-figure scoring games for the first time in his career.
Providence hosts Xavier on Thursday.
Creighton visits Butler on Wednesday.