Despite a late, strong charge from the nation's best player, the Providence Friars can celebrate.
Led by the robust effort of the tournament's Most Outstanding Player Bryce Cotton, the Friars won their first BIG EAST Tournament Championship since 1994. The Friars held off the Creighton Bluejays to the tune of 65-58, earning the right to go dancing for the first time in a decade.
The Friars built an early lead thanks to a cold-shooting performance from the Jays, and the contributions from both Cotton and Tyler Harris. Harris' nine points and Cotton's seven pushed Providence to a 26-17 lead going into the break, and their defensive efforts held Creighton to one of their lowest outputs on the season.
The Bluejays regained their from somewhat in the second half, but it was all for naught. 18 points from the senior forward Doug McDermott and outscoring the Friars 41-39 in the second frame could not push the Jays to their first BIG EAST Tournament Championship in their first year in the conference. Cotton added 16 points to finish with 23 on the night, which led all Friar scorers.
McDermott finished with a game-high 27 points and added another accolade to the long list he carries, earning double figures for the 133rd time in his historic career.
The attributing factor for the Bluejays' shocking defeat was field goal percentage. Despite having one of the nation's most potent offenses, they could not get it going inside Madison Square Garden on Saturday evening. The Jays shot merely 42.9 percent from the field and an abysmal 26.7 percent from the three-point line.
For their sake, they must right the ship going forward. An off-shooting night in the NCAA Tournament could lead to an early exit against any hungry squad looking to wipe off the nation's best player and his teammates, just as Providence did inside The World's Most Famous Arena.
For Ed Cooley & Co., this is a remarkable accomplishment. Although they were stuck in the cellars of the 'old' BIG EAST, this season provided a launching pad back to respectability. Not since 2004 have the Friars been able to put on their 'dancing shoes.'
But dance they will, and celebrate they will as well for now.