GAME NOTES: The 13th-ranked Creighton Bluejays and Providence Friars close out the regular season on Saturday evening, as they meet in a Big East Conference clash at the CenturyLink Center Omaha.
Greg McDermott's Bluejays made a smooth transition into their new conference and competed for the Big East crown for most of the year, sitting at 23-6 overall and 13-4 in-conference. However, Creighton has dropped two straight games to open play in March, relinquishing the conference crown to Villanova. Creighton enters this game off a 75-653 road loss at Georgetown on Tuesday, but will look to end a perfect home slate on Senior Night in this one.
Ed Cooley's Friars have had a successful season as well, entering this season- finale at 20-10 overall and 10-7 in league play. Still, one more quality win over a ranked opponent would certainly bolster NCAA Tournament aspirations. Providence has won three straight games and four of its last five, including Tuesday's thrilling 81-80 double-overtime decision against Marquette.
Providence leads the all-time series with Creighton, 7-4 and is seeking the regular-season sweep after an 81-68 win at home back on Jan. 18.
The Friars a dangerous team, thanks in large part to solid scoring depth and balance inside and out. The headliner on the squad is senior guard Bryce Cotton. The 6-foot-1 veteran isn't a great shooter (.419), but his game is volume driven, as he ranks second in the conference in scoring at 21.7 ppg and first in assists with 5.9 apg. Forwards LaDontae Henton (13.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Kadeem Batts (12.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg) and Tyler Harris (11.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) are a strong trio up front.
Cotton sunk a pair of free-throws with seven seconds left in the second extra session to push the Friars to their first win over Marquette since 2007. Cotton was just 5-of-16 from the floor in the game, but went 13-of-15 from the free-throw line to lead the team with 25 points. Henton posted a double-double with 20 points and 16 rebounds, while Josh Fortune and Batts tacked on 15 and 12 points, respectively.
One of the most efficient squads in the country, Creighton has plenty of firepower, averaging 79.6 ppg, on .491 shooting overall, including .418 from 3-point range. It all starts with senior forward Doug McDermott. Already a two-time All-American, the 6-foot-9 McDermott is eyeing up a third straight All-American campaign, as he leads the nation in scoring at 25.9 ppg. McDermott shoots .514 from the floor, .436 from behind the arc and .877 from the free-throw line. He also finds time to lead the team in rebounding (7.2 rpg). Ethan Wragge gives the team another perimeter threat at 10.9 ppg, shooting .482 from long range (95-of-197). Austin Chatman doesn't score much (7.5 ppg), but is the team's top distributor (4.3 apg).
Georgetown shot a scorching 54 percent from the floor against Creighton, the best effort against the Bluejays all season long, resulting in a 12-point loss for Creighton at the Verizon Center earlier in the week. McDermott had another strong offensive effort, netting 22 points in the loss. Grant Gibbs added 17 points and Chatman chipped in with 14, but the Bluejays shot a disappointing .397 from the floor overall.
The Friars could pick up their 21st win of the season for the first time since 2001. McDermott, who needs just 34 points to become the eighth player in NCAA Division I history to reach 3,000 points, will have something to say about that though, as he closes out a brilliant career in front of the hometown faithful.
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