NEW YORK – In the new-look Big East Conference, it was one of the original teams that wound up grabbing the tournament title.
The Providence Friars, a member of the conference since its formation 35 years ago, captured their second title with a 65-58 win over No. 14 Creighton Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Providence (23-11), the fourth seed, last won the tournament championship in 1994.
Second seed Creighton (26-7) was seeking a third straight conference tournament title. The Bluejays claimed the Missouri Valley Conference title in 2012 and 2013.
The Big East Conference featured three new schools – Creighton, Butler and Xavier – this season after the departure of seven schools, including powerhouses Louisville, Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
Creighton, which normally relies on the long ball, made just 8 of its 30 3-point shots.
Guard Bryce Cotton led Providence with 23 points.
Forward Doug McDermott led the Bluejays with 27 points.
Creighton never led in the second half.
While the Bluejays moved to within two points, 58-56, on back-to-back 3-pointers from McDermott with 1:20 to play, a jumper from forward LaDontae Henton gave the Friars a 60-56 lead with 46 seconds left.
McDermott went without a field goal for 5:11 minutes before draining that first 3-pointer.
Providence sank 7 of 7 from the line in the last 1:37 of the game.
An 8-3 run by the Friars in the first five minutes of the second half opened up a 36-27 lead for Providence. Cotton scored five points in the run.
The Bluejays closed to 18-15 with 3:29 remaining in the first half, but Providence outscored Creighton 8-2 for a 26-17 lead at the intermission. Forward Tyler Harris led the Friars with nine first half points.
Creighton found it difficult to negotiate through Providence’s 2-3 zone, failing to get to the line even once in the first half. The Bluejays turned to their perimeter game, but that produced only one 3-pointer in 12 attempts.
McDermott endured a subpar first half, scoring nine points. He nailed just one of his four 3-point shots.
Providence erased a 9-8 Creighton lead by going on a 9-0 run to move ahead 17-9 with 6:54 left in the half. Cotton led the charge with seven points on a layup, a 3-pointer and a jumper. The Bluejays missed four shots, all 3-pointers, during the sequence.
NOTES: Providence and Creighton are the 24th different pair of teams to play in the Big East Conference tournament final. … The Friars and Bluejays split their two regular-season meetings this season with the home team winning each game by double digits. … Providence G Bryce Cotton led the Big East with an average of 6.1 assists per conference game this season, marking the sixth time a Friars player led the conference in that category. Only Syracuse (eight) has produced more assists leaders. … In the first two games of the Big East tournament, Providence F LaDontae Henton is averaging 21 points and 12.5 rebounds. He has played all 80 minutes. … Creighton shot 53 percent from 3-point range (25 of 47) in its first two tournament games. … All five Providence starters averaged double figures in the first two tournament games.
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