One of the biggest questions entering Big East play was how would the three newcomers, Butler, Creighton and Xavier, adjust to life in a new (and more physical) conference. While the Bulldogs have struggled both Creighton and Xavier have taken to their new surroundings, with the Bluejays entering Saturday’s game at Providence ranked 20th nationally and undefeated (5-0) in Big East play.
Win at Providence, and that would set up a showdown with No. 6 Villanova on Monday night for sole possession of first place. Unfortunately for Creighton, Providence had other ideas.
Ed Cooley’s Friars dominated the boards in the first half (15 second-chance points for the game) and their offensive execution was good throughout, shooting 50% from the field and turning the ball over just five times in the 81-68 victory. Bryce Cotton played all 40 minutes and scored a game-high 23 points for the Friars, leading five Providence players in double figures as they outperformed one of the nation’s best offenses.
Doug McDermott, despite reports of being under the weather, finished the game with 21 points and seven rebounds with 13 of those points being scored in the second half. Creighton’s problem offensively was their lack of production from beyond the arc, as they shot 4-for-19 on the night. Greg McDermott’s team entered the game shooting better than 43% from three and scoring 40.8% of its points on three-pointers, so it’s clear that they rely on that shot to be at their best.
The Bluejays missed those shots, with Providence challenging the majority of them, and it rendered Creighton incapable of making up for their worst defensive showing in Big East play to date.
Even with Creighton’s struggles ahead of their big game at Villanova, the story on Saturday night was Providence. After falling in double overtime to Seton Hall and getting blown out at Villanova the Friars were 0-2 in conference play and given their lack of depth looked to be in serious trouble. Since then Providence has won three straight, with the remaining players showing the competitiveness that’s become the norm for the program under Ed Cooley.
It remains to be seen if Providence can continue on this current run. But even with their lack of depth the Friars continue to compete, and on Saturday night their effort was rewarded.