OMAHA, Neb. — Creighton’s Denzel Mahoney bounced back from one of his worst games of the season to play one of his best.
Mahoney scored 20 points and the 11th-ranked Bluejays broke open a close game in the last 10 minutes to beat No. 23 Connecticut 74-66 Saturday.
Mahoney made 8 of 14 shots from the field after going a season-worst 1 for 10 against Providence on Wednesday.
“I wasn’t really worried about my shot,” he said. “The best shooters in the world miss shots, and I’m confident in my game and my shot. I came in confident as usual and they just happened to go in today.”
Other than Mahoney, the Bluejays (11-4, 7-3 Big East) struggled offensively for a third straight game. They warmed up just enough in the second half to put away the Huskies.
“That’s three games in a row we’ve been in a rock fight,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “I thought our guys handled that well. We battled foul trouble again. I thought our guys started the game with a lot of intensity. A lot of the things I felt we were missing against Providence were there with this afternoon even though we didn’t particularly shoot well from the 3-point line again.”
Creighton, which came into the game 10 of its last 46 on 3s, missed its first five shots from distance and finished just 6 of 20. They shot 58% from the field in the second half and avoided their first three-game losing streak since February 2019.
R.J. Cole scored 14 points and freshman Adama Sanogo had a season-high 13 to lead UConn (7-3, 4-3).
“We couldn’t guard them in the second half and they kind of torched us,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “We competed hard and we were all over the backboard. Just had a hard time scoring. When they’re cooking, they’re one of the best offensive teams in the country.”
UConn has had difficulty finding a rhythm since scoring leader James Bouknight went out four games ago. Bouknight, who scored a career-high 40 points in the Huskies’ overtime loss to Creighton last month, is recovering from elbow surgery.
Sanogo dunked to tie it at 48 before Mahoney started a 14-2 spurt that gave the Bluejays a cushion with six minutes left.
Back-to-back 3s by Isaiah Whaley and Brendan Adams cut the lead in half, but Mitch Ballock hit a shot in the lane and Marcus Zegarowski scored on a blow-by to make it a 10-point game again.
Zegarowski scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half and Damien Jefferson added 12 for the Bluejays.
The Huskies missed 22 of their first 27 shots, including eight layups, before Cole scored eight points to lead a flurry that pulled them to 29-28 at half.
Tyler Polley, averaging 10 points per game and the Huskies’ best 3-point shooter, was held scoreless.
UConn had its five-game road win streak end.
UConn: The Huskies are mired in an offensive slump without Bouknight, and it couldn’t happen at a worse time. They’re in the middle of a stretch of seven games in 23 days.
Creighton: The Bluejays desperately needed this win to keep pace in the Big East race. The 3-point shooting started to come around in the second half. They still need more out of Ballock, who is just 2 of 14 on 3s over his last three games.
OH, THOSE LAYUPS
The Huskies missed 10 of 16 layups against Creighton and 21 of 38 in their last two games.
“The number of layups we missed, putbacks, point-blank shots, it’s frustrating,” Hurley said. “And then I think it became demoralizing. How do you fix that? It’s hard for us to get closer (to the basket) than we’re getting. Just got to convert. Guys got to get in the gym and get better.”
UConn hosts Butler on Tuesday.
Creighton visits Seton Hall on Wednesday.