OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Creighton’s Marcus Foster went from having his worst game of the season to one of his best.
Foster scored 21 of his 23 points in the first half and then turned into a playmaker in the second as the No. 25 Bluejays beat Butler 85-74 on Tuesday night.
The senior guard was coming off a season-low nine points on 3-of-14 shooting at Georgetown on Saturday. He bounced back quite nicely, leading the way during a run that broke open the game midway through the first half and scoring eight of the Bluejays’ last 10 points before the break.
Butler clamped down on him in the second half, when he had six of his season-high eight assists, including a couple big ones after Butler pulled within six points late.
“There weren’t many games a year ago that Marcus Foster had eight assists and two turnovers,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “I think it’s just another sign of his progress and how he continues to grow as a player in every facet of the game.”
Foster, who transferred from Kansas State after the 2014-15 season, has always taken a prodigious number of shots, but he’s shown much more discipline this season. He put up only five shots in the second half after taking 14 in the first. He finished 10 for 19.
“Back at K-State, if I had a bad game like I did against Georgetown, I would have come and put up a whole bunch of shots and had a similar night to the one I had at Georgetown,” Foster said. “I stayed patient.”
Martin Krampelj had 14 points and 14 rebounds for his third straight double-double, and the Bluejays (14-3, 4-1 Big East) won for the ninth time in 10 games. The Bulldogs (12-6, 2-3) lost their third straight.
Butler’s star, Kelan Martin, struggled with Khyri Thomas guarding him. After averaging 25.8 points in the Bulldogs’ first four Big East games, Martin was held to two in the first half and 10 for the game. He did have 11 rebounds.
Creighton led by 18 early in the second half and was still up 69-55 with 8:39 left. Butler then went on a 13-5 run, with Martin backing down Thomas twice in the post to make it 74-68.
Foster fed Davion Mintz for a reverse layup and Krampelj for a dunk to put the Bluejays up 80-70 with a minute to play, and the Bulldogs missed seven of their last eight shots.
Paul Jorgensen had 18 points, Kamar Baldwin added 15 points and eight rebounds, and Aaron Thompson had 12 points for the Bulldogs.
“You spot them 17 points, it’s going to be really tough to come back when you dig a hole like that,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. “I continue to say I love the fight in our group. You need a couple balls to bounce your way in order to pull one out like that on the road.”
Butler: The Bulldogs had a 37-32 rebounding advantage, and four players scored in double figures. But they need Martin more involved on offense early.
Creighton: The Bluejays had 23 assists on 33 field goals and continue to show they are tough to beat once they get going in transition.
Thomas, who had 14 points, drew the biggest roar of the night when he took a pass from Ronnie Harrell Jr. in the first half and instinctively took off near the free throw line for a huge throw-down.
“I really was going to do a layup,” he said. “I had the wide-open lane and I dunked it.”
TOUGH STRETCH ENDS
Butler finished a stretch in which it played four straight ranked opponents. The Bulldogs upset then-No. 1 Villanova before losing three straight.
“It’s been tough,” Jorgensen said. “We played arguably the best teams in the league. We fought every game, pulled out a good one against ‘Nova but came up short in the other three. Once we figure some things out, this team has a lot of room to grow and we’ll be really good.”
Butler hosts Marquette on Friday.
Creighton visits No. 10 Xavier on Saturday.