It seems that any time Creighton and Providence meet at the Garden there are major implications for both teams. Thursday was no different.
Providence was able to pull out a 72-68 overtime win over Creighton to advance to the Big East semifinals and likely avoid the NCAA Tournament play-in game in Dayton.
The Bluejays were trailing by three in the final second of overtime, but had a chance to tie it. Jays star Marcus Foster received all the attention on the final shot, but found sharpshooter Mitch Ballock who was wide open.
He missed it and the Friars survived.
“I thought that was a great team win,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “You can’t say enough about the Big East, the spirit that is always in this building. This was a win I thought our players went out and won. I thought it was Divine Providence.”
After missing the shot, Ballock was visibility upset and was consoled by his teammates.
Creighton Coach Greg Dermott said afterwards that the team was comfortable with Ballock taking the shot since they knew how much work he had put in the gym preparing himself for a shot like that.
In the win, the Friars were led by the 19 points from New York native Alpha Diallo who made some big shots down the stretch including a put back lay up with 12 seconds to go that sent the game overtime.
That is, after Foster missed his chance to win it.
“I was looking for the stepback three like I always do and I just lost the ball,” Foster said.
He had to heave up a prayer at the buzzer that wasn’t answered.
Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright each added 13 points and Cartwright made some big shots down the stretch in regulation and overtime to help the Friars across the finish line. The Garden crowd, which was electric all afternoon, helped Providence down the stretch just as much.
“Playing in the Garden feels like our second home at times,” Cartwright said. “(The fans) always come out and support us and we feel that energy.”
Matchups played a big role in how this game played out as the Friars played small from the start and for most of the game, which forced Creighton to adjust and play lineups that McDermott said he hadn’t played all season.
Those adjustments were made, but the Friars were able to grind out the victory anyway.
“I thought we played well enough defensively to win,” McDermott said. “We got the shot we wanted, he just missed it.”
For the Friars, it was their fourth Big East Tournament overtime game ever but their first since 1995.
It was Creighton’s first Big East Tournament overtime game, but their last conference tournament overtime game came in 2012 when they played in the Missouri Valley Conference title game.
Many believe now that the Friars are a shoe in to not only make the NCAA Tournament but avoid the Dayton play in game, which ended up leading to an early tournament exit for the Friars last season. Were they thinking about that heading into tonight?
“Who’s bubble?” said Cooley.
Cartwright added that all they were thinking about was advancing in the Big East Tournament and that the goal is to come to the Garden every year and win every day.
It just shows you how much this tournament means to everyone involved.
For Creighton, they will now wait for Selection Sunday to see where they will play in the NCAA Tournament.
Providence gets to stick around and play top-seeded Xavier at MSG tomorrow night in the semifinals. They split their two meetings during the regular season with both home teams winning.
Get the popcorn ready!