Providence knocks off No. 20 Creighton, wins third straight

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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.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.