Creighton beats No. 11 Providence to reach Big East final

NEW YORK (AP) — Arthur Kaluma scored 17 points and had a crushing blitz that sent Creighton to a stunning 85-58 rout of No. 11 Providence and into the Big East Championship game on Friday night.

Alex O’Connell had 18 points and Ryan Kalkbrenner added 15 points and nine rebounds as the fourth seed for the Bluejays (22-10), who reached their fourth conference final since joining the league before the 2013-14 season.

They are still looking for their first title at the Big East Tournament.

Trey Alexander scored his 15 points after halftime for Creighton, who all but wrapped up an NCAA tournament bid by winning nine of the last 11. Particularly impressive, the Bluejays are 4-2 since losing Big East freshman Ryan Nembhard to a season-ending wrist injury.

The surprising Bluejays, picked eighth in last year’s Big East preseason poll with no starters from the Sweet 16 team, will face eighth-and-second-seeded Villanova or 20th-and-third-seeded UConn for the crown Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Al Durham collected 21 points on a rare miserable night this season for the top-ranked brothers (25-5), who won their first regular-season conference championship after 43 years in the Big East as a founding member .

It was the most lopsided loss for a No. 1 seed in Big East tournament history.

The game was tied at 25 at the end of the first half before Kaluma, one of three Bluejays on the Big East freshman team, scored 10 points in a 12-0 run which allowed Creighton to take control for good. He started the push with a three-point play and capped it off with a 3-pointer on his own volley.

The Bluejays, who ranked first in the Big East in field goal defense percentage (40%) and second in score defense (67.5 points per game) in conference play, entered the break ahead 42-27 after holding Providence to 28 percent shooting and 2 for 12 from 3-point range.

Playing with swagger, Creighton also stormed into the half, scoring the first 14 points as Brothers coach Ed Cooley called three timeouts in the opening four minutes. Two Durham free throws finally stopped the 19-0 halftime push and drew Bronx cheers from the Providence crowd.

By the time the onslaught was over, the Bluejays had beaten Providence 31-2 in about 10½ minutes and 35-4 to build a 60-29 cushion.

Providence center Nate Watson, who bullied Butler for a season-high 26 points in the quarterfinals, managed just five on 2-for-7 shooting in a one-sided clash with 7-foot-1 Kalkbrenner , the Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

In their only previous game this season, Providence clinched the Big East regular season crown with a 72-51 blowout against Creighton in front of a frenzied home crowd on Feb. 26.

“We played them on a night when I’m not sure the Golden State Warriors could have gone there and won,” Bluejays coach Greg McDermott said Thursday. “This place was electric. And the city was shaking. And they kind of pounced on us at the end of that first half. We didn’t really manage to get our bearings. »

The other scheduled meeting was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. But the rematch was very different.

“Our guys have a lot of pride,” McDermott said.

BUMPED

Providence starting goaltender AJ Reeves was rocked and wobbled off the field after Creighton forward Ryan Hawkins collided with the Bluejays 29 and 8:49 remaining.

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: Since joining the Big East for the 2013-14 season, the Bluejays are 4-0 in the conference tournament semifinals but 0-3 in league games, including a blistering loss against the No. 8 seed Georgetown last year.

“‘I just haven’t been able to kick down the door and win a Big East Championship,'” McDermott told Hawkins recently.

Providence: The lopsided nature of this loss will fuel critics who say the Brothers were lucky to win so many close games. But it’s been a scintillating ride through the Big East in one of the greatest seasons in school history, and now they can sit down and celebrate a pretty high NCAA Tournament seeding on Selection Sunday.

FOLLOWING

Creighton shared two games against Villanova at the start of the regular season, with the home side winning by a wide margin each time.

The Bluejays swept UConn, including a 64-62 win at home on March 2.

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter. com/AP_Top25




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