OMAHA, Neb. — An early 23-6 deficit was too much for No. 11 Creighton to overcome as the Bluejays fell to Providence 74-70 on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at CHI Health Center Omaha.
The loss was the Bluejays second consecutive setback, moving Creighton to 10-4 on the season and 6-3 in BIG EAST action, while Providence moved to 8-6 overall and 4-4 in conference play. CU had defeated PC in Rhode Island on a Christian Bishop dunk in the final second on January 2nd, 67-65.
The Bluejays came out as cold as a winter storm, starting the game 1-for-12 in the opening eight minutes. During that same stretch Providence’s offense was running on high efficiency with nine buckets on 14 attempts. The result was a 23-6 lead for the Friars with 11:52 remaining in the first frame.
Over the final 12 minutes of the first half, the shooting fortunes turned for both teams as Creighton went 10-for-16 to close within three points on two separate possessions. Providence, however, was able to hold the Bluejays at arms length to take a 39-34 lead into the break.
Leading Creighton’s first half charge was senior Damien Jefferson and junior Marcus Zegarowski as the duo delivered 26 of Creighton’s 34 points. Zegarowski’s last bucket of the frame, a layup with 2:51 remaining, lifted the Massachusetts native over the 1,000-point mark in his career. He’s the 44th Bluejay to do so, and it came in his 75th career game.
The second half began just as the first with Creighton missing seven of its first nine shots. Providence took advantage, pushing its lead out to 52-39 in the opening five minutes of the half (15:21).
Down 56-45 with 9:36 remaining, the Bluejays got Jefferson going once more. The Indiana native rattled off seven straight points himself to make it a 56-52 contest, Zegarowski followed with a pair of free throws to get the Bluejays within two with 5:59 left.
Providence held the Bluejays off, thanks in large part to a contested three from the top of the key by Alyn Breed. Once again Creighton clawed back within two at 67-65 as the clock rolled just under one minute on a driving layup by senior Mitch Ballock.
With the shot clock drawing to its end on the following possession, star Providence guard David Duke banked a trey off the glass to dash the Bluejay comeback hopes. Duke, who scored 36 points in Omaha last season, finished just 2-for-11 from the field on Wednesday.
Jefferson led the Bluejays with a career-high 26 points on the night, while Zegarowski finished with 17. Bishop finished with 12 points, making all six field goal attempts, but was limited to 14 minutes due to foul trouble. Providence got a career-high 29 points from Nate Watson, one of four Friars to finish in double figures. Breed, who had 24 points all season, finished with a season-best 15 points in place of injured starter Jared Bynum.
Creighton shot 43.1 percent from the field but just 4-of-23 from downtown. The four three-pointers and 17.4 percent marksmanship from deep were both season-lows for the Bluejays.
PC won the rebound battle 42-34 and outscored CU 10-2 in transition. Providence shot 44.6 percent for the game and also made 19-of-26 free throw tries.
The Bluejays return to the hardwood on Saturday, Jan. 23 as Creighton welcomes No. 23 Connecticut to the CHI Health Center for an 11:00 am tip.