NEW YORK (AP) — Bryce Cotton scored 23 points and Providence won its first Big East tournament title since 1994 with a great defensive effort against Doug McDermott and No. 14 Creighton in a 65-56 victory Saturday night.
The fourth-seeded Friars (23-11) used a 2-3 zone to hold the second-seeded Bluejays (26-7) 24 points below their season average and to an 8-for-30 effort from behind the 3-point line.
Cotton, the senior guard who finished second to McDermott in the conference scoring but was also a unanimous first-team All-Big East selection, was the scoring star in the championship game and he was selected the tournament MVP.
McDermott, who came in leading the nation in scoring with 26.5 average, finished 10 for 19 from the field, including 5 of 12 from 3-point range, for 27 points. He shined in his first two Big East tournament games, getting 35 in the quarterfinals against DePaul and 32 in the semifinal win over Xavier.
He had nine points at halftime as Providence held the Bluejays to a season-low 17 points in taking a nine-point lead.
The Friars led by 12 points twice in the second half, the last time at 45-33 on a jumper by Kadeem Batts with 12:47 left.
The Bluejays got as close as 58-56 on McDermott’s fifth and final 3 with 1:18 to play.
But the Friars held on from the free throw line, going 8 for 8 over the final 2:47 while scoring just one from the field.
Providence and its zone had caused problems for Creighton before. The Friars held the Bluejays to 4 for 19 from 3-point range in an 81-68 victory in January. McDermott had it figured out in the rematch, scoring 45 points in his last home game just a week ago. The Friars took the advantage back Saturday night and with it their first Big East title in 20 years.
Creighton reached the title game in its first season in the Big East. The Bluejays, who didn’t trail in the tournament until this game, won the last two Missouri Valley Conference titles before leaving. The loss ended Creighton’s streak of winning 10 straight conference championship games. The last one it lost was to Tulsa in the 1984 Missouri Valley Conference title game.
The crowd of 15,290 at Madison Square Garden was charged from the start and a strong contingent of Creighton fans made the building shake as the Bluejays closed in on the Friars.
Cotton, who was 1 for 10 from the field and had 12 points in the quarterfinal win over St. John’s and had 18 points and 10 assists in the semifinal victory over Seton Hall, finished 8 for 18 from the field, including 3 for 9 from 3-point range. He biggest basket came on a drive under and around two defenders that gave Providence a 54-47 lead with 5:18 to go. That and LaDontae Henton’s jumper with 45 seconds left were the Friars’ only field goals in the final 9 minutes.
McDermott has 3,105 points, fifth on the all-time scoring list. He is trying to become the 11th player to be a three-time All-America and the first since Patrick Ewing of Georgetown and Wayman Tisdale of Oklahoma in 1985.
The trophy presentation was especially poignant for Providence which accepted the Dave Gavitt Trophy, named for the founder of the Big East and former Providence coach and athletic director.
McDermott, who came into the game shooting 45.6 percent from behind the arc, was 1 of 6 from there in the first half and the Bluejays, who led the conference on 3s at 42.7 percent, were 1 for 12.
Providence was patient on offense and twice took nine-point leads, the second time on a rebound basket by Carson Desrosiers with 5 seconds left for a 26-17 lead.
Creighton’s previous season low for a half was 24 points in the first half of a 60-53 loss to George Washington on Dec. 1.
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