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No. 11 Creighton claims share of Big East title with win over No. 8 Seton Hall

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OMAHA, Neb. — Marcus Zegarowski made all five of his 3-pointers and finished with 23 points to lead No. 11 Creighton to a share of the Big East Conference regular-season title with a 77-60 victory over No. 8 Seton Hall on Saturday.

The Bluejays (24-7, 13-5) claimed all or part of their first conference title since winning the Missouri Valley outright in 2012-13. They joined the Big East the next season.

Creighton has won 11 of its last 13 games and, because it swept the season series against the Pirates, will be the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament in New York next week.

The Bluejays finished the game on a 21-6 run, with the sellout crowd of more than 18,000 at CHI Health Center growing louder as the clock wound down. Students stormed the court after the final buzzer, and a Big East banner was unfurled from the rafters moments later.

Seton Hall (21-9, 13-5) lost its last two games and will be the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. Villanova also won a share of the regular-season title and is the No. 2 seed.

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Denzel Mahoney came off the bench to score 16 points for the Bluejays, and Ty-Shon Alexander had 15 points along with playing a superb defensive game against Seton Hall star Myles Powell.

Powell and Quincy McKnight each scored 15 points for the Pirates and Jared Rhoden added 12.

Seton Hall controlled the pace of the game against the Big East’s highest-scoring team, but the Bluejays were able to pull away late.

Billed by local media as the biggest home game in Creighton program history, fans showed up early and the student section was vocal, chanting “Let’s Go Jays” as the Bluejays ran onto the court before pregame introductions.

Alexander got the crowd on its feet right away, stealing the ball from Powell on the opening possession and converting a fast-break pass from Damien Jefferson into an easy layin. Then, after Powell appeared to shed Alexander on a ball screen, Alexander caught him from behind to block his layup try.

The half ended tied 32-all, and it was close until the Bluejays began taking control midway through the second half. Zegarowski drove the length of the court and snaked his way through the lane for a finger-roll layin to break a 50-50 tie, and the Bluejays never surrendered the lead.

Tension spilled over late when Jefferson and Sandro Mamukelashvili were chest to chest in the final 2 minutes. Mamukelashvili tried to shove Jefferson, Creighton coach Greg McDermott sprinted across the bench to calm matters and the players were given double technicals.

BIG PICTURE

Seton Hall: The Pirates lost back-to-back games for only the second time this season, and Powell, averaging 27 points in road games, was never able to take control offensively.

Creighton: The Bluejays ride momentum of the Big East title into the conference tournament after finishing 17-1 at home and improving to 7-2 against Top 25 opponents.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall plays in the Big East Tournament on Thursday.

Creighton plays in the Big East Tournament on Thursday.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: The Big East is up for grabs, Florida State survives and Kansas reclaims the Big 12

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Quite a few developments Wednesday from some of the country’s best teams in the nation’s best leagues. Here’s what you need to know:

Villanova makes this weekend interesting in the Big East

Seton Hall had a chance to do something really cool Wednesday. The Pirates, already having secured a piece of the Big East regular-season championship, could lock up an outright title at home, on a senior night honoring the likes of Quincy McKnight, Romaro Gill and the incomparable Myles Powell.

That is a stage set beautifully.

Except the Pirates were sharing it with Big East powerhouse Villanova.

The Wildcats shot 51.9 percent from the floor and 40.6 percent from 3-point range while holding Powell to 5 of 18 shooting to claim a 79-77 win in Newark and to send the Big East into some serious drama this weekend.

Seton Hall, now 13-4 in the league, still controls its own fate and can win the title outright, but the Pirates’ loss Wednesday means they’re not the only team who holds its fate in its own hands. That’s because the Pirates face Creighton on Saturday in Omaha, and the Bluejays are owners of a 12-5 mark in Big East play. If Greg McDermott’s team wins, they’re co-champs with Kevin Willard’s group.

But, that’s not all!

By virtue of knocking of Seton Hall, Villanova, too, sports a 12-5 conference mark. If the Wildcats can beat Georgetown for the second time this season on Saturday in D.C. and the Bluejays beat Seton Hall at home, it’s a three-way tie atop the Big East.

The ‘Cats tipoff a couple hours before Seton Hall and Creighton, so they’ll have the opportunity to watch their Big East title chances materialize on TV should they beat the Hoyas.

There’s intrigue in the Big East because Saddiq Bey scored 20 points while Justin Moore and Jermaine Samuels both added 19 for the Wildcats, who shot 10 of 18 from the free-throw line to keep Seton Hall hanging around for the final seconds. Sandro Mamukelashvli had 20 and 10 for Seton Hall while McKnight scored 16.

All three teams are jockeying for seed lines both in the Big East and NCAA tournaments, so how things shake out not only effect the regular-season banners that might go up in Philly, Omaha and Newark, but the likelihood if they’re joined by something a little sweeter from the postseason.

Florida State steals a win in South Bend

Raiquan Gray hit a jumper 1 minute, 23 seconds into the game to put Florida State up one in the early going against Notre Dame. On the next possession, which took a total of 16 seconds, the Fighting Irish got a triple from Prentiss Hubb to regain the lead. A lead they would hold nearly until the very end.

The nearly is doing a lot of work in that sentence, though.

From the time of Hubb’s 3-pointer to when Florida State’s Trent Forrest’s layup went through the rim with 3 seconds remaining, Notre Dame had No. 7 Florida State on the ropes, but Forrest’s bucket and the three-seconds worth of advantage it gave the Seminoles was enough for Florida State to beat Notre Dame, 73-71.

The ‘Noles led for just 19 seconds in the game and trailed by as many as 13 in the second half. They really didn’t have a whole lot of business being in this thing late, but there they were until their they went, back home with their 25th win of the year. It also keeps Florida State tied with Louisville atop the ACC standings with just a home game against Boston College this weekend between them and a conference title.

As for Notre Dame, it was a missed opportunity to land a big win in a season that appears destined to end without an NCAA tournament for the third-straight time, which will match the longest drought of the Mike Brey era. They went without a dance from 2004-06 previously.

King Kansas…again

After 12 long months, at long last, the tyrannical reign of Texas Tech and Kansas State as Big 12 champions is over. Kansas injects some much-needed fresh air into the Big 12 as its new champion.

It was a long year for the Jayhawks, who spent the previous 14 as the conference’s best. Must of been tough, I’m sure.

The top-ranked Jayhawks dispatched TCU 75-66 to win at least a piece of the conference title for the 15th time in 16 years, and they can win it outright if they can beat Texas Tech in Lubbock or if Baylor gets tripped up by West Virginia in Morgantown.

Kansas has now won 15 straight and looks to only be rolling into tip-top fighting shape with Udoka Azubuike scoring 31 against the Horned Frogs. Not only is Kansas back after a one-year hiatus atop the Big 12, it looks as though the Jayhawks are quickly becoming the national title favorite.

WATCH: No. 16 Seton Hall beats No. 21 Butler at the buzzer

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Seton Hall’s two-game skid came to an end in dramatic fashion Wednesday.

Sandro Mamukelashvili converted on a baseline-out-of-bounds play with 0.6 seconds left as the No. 16 Pirates defeated No. 21 Butler in Newark.

Quincy McKnight led the way for Seton Hall with 18 points while Myles Powell added 16. Mamukelashvili and Romaro Gill both had 15. Kamar Baldwin had 20 for the Bulldogs.

Seton Hall keeps its one-game lead in the Big East standings with the victory.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: Creighton claims another top-10 win, Auburn keeps winning OT games and Villanova stops its skid

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It was a busy night for hoops around the country, that featured some good news for a team not even playing, Louisville struggling and Kansas showing itself to be just a notch better than West Virginia. Here’s what else you need to know:

1. Creighton lands another top-10 W

We’re probably not talking enough about Creighton. After Wednesday’s 87-82 win over No. 10 Seton Hall, the 23rd-ranked Bluejays are now tied for second in the Big East and have quietly assembled a resume that’s going to moving up to top-four NCAA tournament seed territory here shortly. Creighton is very much for real, and has a real chance of making the first Sweet 16 in school history next month.

It’s the offense that makes the Bluejays go, and Seton Hall learned that Wednesday. Creighton shot 46 percent from the field, 38 percent from 3-point range and grabbed 11 offensive rebounds while playing at a blistering 76-possession pace. Ty-Shon Alexander, Marcus Zegarowski, Denzel Mahoney and Damien Jefferson all had 18 points for coach Greg McDermott on the night. Creighton’s offensive night was almost even more impressive considering Mitchell Ballock, their best 3-point shooter and a consistent offensive threat, was 0-7 from the floor. Take that out, and Creighton was 51.8 percent from the floor and 44.4 percent from 3.

They’re now up to sixth nationally in offense on KenPom, thanks strong 3-point shooting, good work inside the arc and their ability to take care of the ball.  The rotation is thin, but every player McDermott sends out on to the floor is a capable offensive presence. There’s something to be said for the power of simply not having a liability on the floor to help make an offense excellent. The defense isn’t much to lean on, but the Bluejays get buckets.

The loss is the second in four games for Seton Hall, with both Ls coming at home. There’s certainly no reason to start wondering about the Pirates now – they’re probably not winning on nights when Myles Powell goes an atypical 3 of 16 from the floor – but they’re missing on opportunities to push their resume up a notch.

2. Auburn wins in OT…again

What in the world do you make of Auburn?

The Tigers improved to 22-2 on the year and 9-2 in SEC play with their seventh-straight win, a 95-91 victory over Alabama at home. It was the third-straight extra-time victory for the Tigers, and their fourth in five games.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but winning is, obviously, the thing that’s most important in a basketball game. When you’re trying to evaluate just how good Auburn is, though, all these close games make it awfully difficult. Does it say anything all that much different about a team if they win or lose an overtime game? It’s five minutes of basketball, and in five minutes of basketball anything can happen. Are they clutch? Lucky?

When a game comes down to such a small sample size, it’s hard to assign credit. The average KenPom ranking of these teams that are playing Auburn even for 40 minutes is 42. Not cupcakes, but hardly national title contenders, either. Making things even more difficult to judge is that the one game in this stretch that didn’t take OT was Auburn’s win against Kentucky.

I don’t really know what to make of Auburn, but I imagine they don’t care too much. They’re too busy winning.

Side note: Alabama shot 59 times from 3-point range tonight. The Tide are one of the fastest-playing teams and highest-volume 3-point shooting teams in the country. If Nate Oats starts loading up on skilled players that can maximize that style of play, they’re going to be a ton of fun.

3. Villanova gets back on track

Villanova’s three-game losing streak is no more.

The Wildcats salvaged their last chance in a tough four-game stretch by beating Marquette, 72-71.

It was the first victory in two weeks after losses to Creighton, Butler and Seton Hall. Even with two of the three coming at home, those are schedule losses as much as anything. Getting this one against Marquette, even if it came down to the wire, helps build a little momentum and confidence heading into a regular-season finale stretch of seven games when a rematch against Seton Hall is the only KenPom top-45 opponent on the slate.

Villanova has a real chance to stack victories over the next month.

Marquette, meanwhile, has a huge game against Creighton next week before a similarly light finish to Big East play that features a rematch with the Pirates.

 

Myles Powell leads No. 18 Seton Hall past No. 5 Butler

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Seton Hall earned another monster road win by knocking off No. 5 Butler, 78-70, on Wednesday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Myles Powell had another exceptional effort to pace the No. 18 Pirates in the Big East win. The All-American candidate finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and three steals. For the second time in Big East play, the Pirates found themselves trailing by double digits on the road. And, for the second time, they turned to their senior leader to close down the stretch. Powell lifted Seton Hall with 19 second-half points when the Pirates desperately needed offense.

The guard’s veteran savvy, three-point marksmanship and big-game mentality are a huge reason why Seton Hall is now atop the Big East at 5-0. The Big East’s young season has already seen Powell will Seton Hall to multiple victories. Powell also outdueled fellow preseason All-American Markus Howard and Marquette for a Pirates win.

It’s still early in the Big East season. But Powell is making a massive case for Big East Player of the Year — if not more.

Powell is the obvious engine that drives Seton Hall. But the Pirates have turned into an elite team during this seven-game winning streak thanks to the continued development of role players. Senior big man Romaro Gill has come up big on both ends of the floor. The 7-foot-2 Gill finished with 17 points, four rebounds and three blocks. After only one double-figure scoring game the first 13 games of the season, Gill now has four straight double-figure games in Big East play.

Gill’s rapid improvement has also established him as the preferred center in Seton Hall’s big-man rotation ahead of Ikey Obiagu. Even when Gill fouled out, Obiagu’s ability to fill in and protect the rim was a factor in the Pirate closing Wednesday’s win.

Jared Rhoden (13 points) and Quincy McKnight (11 points) also have flourished during this recent stretch. Rhoden’s critical three-pointer with under a minute left gave the Pirates a two-possession lead. McKnight has proven himself to be an adequate scorer and distributor when teams overload on Powell.

Seton Hall has run off seven straight wins despite missing junior forward Sandro Mamukelashvili. The Pirates are continuing to establish new role players and secondary pieces to play around Powell. And what happens if Mamukelashvili returns to form once he’s healthy from a wrist injury? He’s scheduled to potentially return within the month as his presence would make Seton Hall even more dangerous.

Butler (15-2, 3-1) made an admirable push to nearly win this game after blowing the lead. A 7-0 run gave the Bulldogs a one-point lead at the under-four timeout. The lead was short-lived, however, as Powell and the Pirates closed them down. This isn’t a bad loss by any means for Butler. But losing at home to a team in the mix for the Big East title definitely stings in the conference race.

Kamar Baldwin paced Butler with 19 points. Jordan Tucker’s hot first half fueled his 14-point outing as his scoring uptick helped give the Bulldogs the first-half advantage. Butler looked strong and their pieces fit well together. They just don’t have the type of player who can keep up with a player like Powell when he gets rolling.

Ten Things to Know: Long road losing streaks end during wild day of college hoops

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College basketball was all about big road wins.

The Big 12 and ACC saw two huge road losing streaks end. The rest of the day saw some upsets along with an injury to keep tabs on.

BAYLOR GOT ITS FIRST-EVER WIN IN PHOG ALLEN FIELDHOUSE

Everything you need to know about the biggest game of the day can be found right here.

CLEMSON GOT ITS FIRST-EVER WIN (IN 60 TRIES!) IN CHAPEL HILL

Clemson basketball kicked off a big sports weekend for the school. The Tigers snapped their 0-59 mark in Chapel Hill with a 79-76 double-overtime win over North Carolina.

Brad Brownell’s team celebrated in euphoric fashion.

This isn’t your typical ACC road win. It was one of the premier streaks in college basketball. Clemson and North Carolina first played men’s basketball during the 1925-26 season. Both programs are founding members of the ACC.

Same conference.

Since 1953.

So for the Tigers to FINALLY earn a win in Chapel Hill, even if North Carolina happens to be down right now, is a monumental accomplishment.

For North Carolina, the recent freefall continues. The Tar Heels have lost three straight and dropped to 1-4 in ACC play. Following the loss, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams made some emotional remarks blaming himself.

Even though North Carolina is well outside of the top 25, they remain one of the most compelling teams in college hoops.

WEST VIRGINIA SHUTS DOWN TEXAS TECH

Things weren’t particularly pretty in Morgantown on Saturday night. Using seemingly its whole roster to wear down the Red Raiders, West Virginia earned an impressive Big 12 home win.

Despite only making three shots from three-point range on the night, West Virginia held a comfortable advantage thanks to one of the nation’s best defenses. The Mountaineers held Texas Tech to 28 percent shooting. The Red Raiders simply had no answer for the swarm of West Virginia defenders.

While West Virginia has continued to climb up the national rankings with an underrated array of quad one wins, this is one of the program’s best wins this season. The Mountaineers are surely a contender in the Big 12. The major question becomes if they are more than just a conference title contender. And more of a potential national title contender.

NICK RICHARDS IS THE KEY TO KENTUCKY’S SEASON

Over the course of the last four games, No. 14 Kentucky has asserted themselves as one of the best teams in college basketball once again. They’ve knocked off Louisville, Missouri, Georgia and Alabama during that run, and it should come as no coincidence that the best stretch of Kentucky’s season has come at the same time that Nick Richards has played the best basketball of his career.

In those four games, Richards is averaging 16.0 points, 10.0 boards and 2.5 blocks, but more importantly, he’s staying on the floor for more than 29 minutes per game. He’s starting to figure things out, and that, in turn, has helped build his confidence, his belief in himself.

“You can’t coach a kid’s confidence,” a source close to Kentucky said. “He needs to build it himself.”

He’s posting harder, he’s demanding the ball, he’s doing all of the things that Kentucky has been waiting for him to two do two-and-a-half years. And it hasn’t only helped Richards, the guards that feed him the rock have confidence in him as well. If you’re a point guard and you know Richards doesn’t want the ball, are you going to give him a post touch? Are you going to throw a post entry when you don’t think anything good will happen?

Saturday proved my point.

In the first half against Alabama, Richards had 11 points, six boards and four blocks, and Kentucky went into the break with a 45-35 lead. He finished with just two points in the second half, and Alabama cut the lead to one in the final two minutes.

OHIO STATE HAS NOW LOST FOUR STRAIGHT GAMES

The 12th-ranked Buckeyes dropped to 11-5 on the season and 1-4 in the Big Ten after losing their fourth straight game on Saturday, 66-54, to Indiana.

During that four game losing streak, Ohio State has shot 28-for-97 from three, a cool 28.9 percent. Prior to the start of this losing streak, after they beat Kentucky in Las Vegas and when they were sitting at No. 1 in KenPom and splitting votes with Gonzaga for No. 1 in the AP poll, the Buckeyes were shooting 41.5 percent from three as a team.

The reason why they are struggling from beyond the arc is a bigger question. Part of it is just regression — water eventually finds itself — and part of it is that as D.J. Carton has struggled, who had seven turnovers on Saturday, Ohio State’s offense has struggled. They don’t have the individual playmakers to create offense for themselves, and if Carton (and C.J. Walker) are struggling to create easy shots for their teammates, Ohio State becomes really limited offensively.

Oh, and should I mention that Ohio State’s second-leading scorer, Duane Washington, didn’t take a single shot and was benched for the final 30 minutes. He’s either hurt or Chris Holtmann is fed up with his defensive lapses.

Either way, what was clicking for the first month of the season is clearly no longer working.

AUBURN AND SAN DIEGO STATE ARE STILL UNDEFEATED

The No. 5 Tigers cruised past Georgia at home, winning 82-60, while the No. 7 Aztecs took care of business against Boise State at home, 83-65.

Auburn’s biggest tests of the season to date will come next week, as they travel to take on Alabama and Florida. SDSU heads to Fresno State on Tuesday and then will host Nevada next weekend.

OBI TOPPIN ROLLED HIS ANKLE

The star big man for No. 15 Dayton stepped on someone’s foot early in the second half of an 88-60 win over UMass and had to leave the game. He ended up leaving the game and returning to his team’s bench with a boot on his left foot.

Toppin told reporters after the game that, “it’s good.” Head coach Anthony Grant, speaking in his press conference after the game, said that he thought it was a sprained ankle and that the team would know more in the next 24 hours, but he did not sound overly concerned.

VIRGINIA DROPS SECOND STRAIGHT TO UNRANKED OPPONENT

It’s looking like defending national champion Virginia will fall out of the top 25 next week. A second consecutive loss to an unranked team on Saturday likely sealed the Cavaliers’ new fate.

After falling on the road at Boston College last game, Virginia fell to Syracuse at home.  The Orange earned an unlikely overtime win while also avenging its season-opening home loss to the ‘Hoos.

Hitting some massive three-pointers once overtime started, the Orange played completely free and with a lot of confidence once the extra session started. It also pointed to a continuing glaring issue Virginia has faced. Who is this team’s go-to player when they need a bucket?

Things don’t get easier for Virginia when they head on the road to Florida State next game. With three of their next four coming on the road, the Cavaliers have some work to do to stay with the ACC’s best.

GONZAGA AND DUKE CRUISE TO VICTORY

Easy day for No. 1 and No. 2 on Saturday.

Gonzaga made quick work of Loyola Marymount. The Bulldogs won by 25 on the road.

In the ACC, Duke ran past Wake Forest. The Blue Devils were fueled by Tre Jones in a 31-point victory.

MYLES POWELL, SETON HALL OUTDUEL MARKUS HOWARD, MARQUETTE

CBT’s Preseason All-America Team featured Myles Powell and Markus Howard both on the first team.

So Saturday’s Big East clash between Seton Hall and Marquette was must-see TV. Both stars finished an identical 8-for-22 from the field as Howard dropped 27 points and Powell delivered 23 points.

Most importantly, however, was the Pirates claiming the 69-55 Big East win. Seton Hall has six straight wins since Powell returned to the lineup from a concussion. Saturday’s win gives the Pirates a leg up on the rest of the league and Powell a leg up on Howard with one matchup to go.

Not many people seem to be talking about Seton Hall. That’s a mistake. This team is playing really well over the last several weeks and look like the possible team to beat in the Big East.