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Creighton Stuns Providence, Advances to Championship Saturday

The Bluejays put on an offensive clinic to end the Friars’ hopes of a BIG EAST Tournament title.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Providence vs Creighton Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

It was the night that wasn’t supposed to happen… at least not this way. At roughly 5:45PM, masses of Friar fans, and Rhode Island natives made their ways from the bars and pubs surrounding 34th street in Midtown Manhattan and headed towards the legendary Madison Square Garden with hopes to return the following night. Instead, it was the Bluejays fans, out of Omaha, Nebraska, that had the joy of watching their squad advance to championship Saturday, following 4-seeded Creighton’s rout of 1-seeded Providence, 85-58.

There really isn’t much to say about this one, other than it was none other than a good old fashioned curb stomp. Everything was falling for the Bluejays, who had just lost to Providence by 21-points back on February 26th. Ironically, that 21-point victory for the Friars was the one that earned them the BIG EAST regular season title – Creighton returned the favor by crushing the Friars’ hopes of a second BIG EAST trophy in less than three weeks.

The Bluejays were led by Alex O’Connell, who logged 18-points, going 5-for-10 from the floor, and 4-for-6 from three-point land. O’Connell was joined in double-figures by Arthur Kaluma (17-points), Ryan Kalkbrenner (15-points) and Trey Alexander (15-points). The Bluejays will play the winner of #2 Villanova / #3 Connecticut in the BIG EAST Tournament Championship game.

As for the Friars, this is going to be one that Ed Cooley will likely want to forget. The Friars, who have been enjoying a dream season thus far, were given a dose of reality tonight, as their BIG EAST Tournament championship hopes were ripped from them – in devastating fashion. This loss is the third of the Friars’ five on the season that comes by a significant deficit of more than 15-points, with Virginia and Marquette being the benefactors of the previous two.

The Friars were led by Al Durham who logged 21-points. No other Friar scored in double figures. In the post-game press conference, Ed Cooley opened by saying “We didn’t play well. Let’s call it what it is.” He’s correct. Aside from Durham turning it on, there weren’t a ton of positives to take away from this one. The offense was stagnant, the defense lackluster, and the momentum nonexistent. This was one of the worst performances of the year for the BIG EAST regular season champions, and it unfortunately is the one that ends their hopes of a BIG EAST Tournament championship. This loss serves as a serious reality check, for a team whose success has been attributed to “luck” for 99% of the season.

The Friars’ post-season destiny is still in their own hands, however, as they will still likely earn a top-5 seed in the NCAA tournament. Ed Cooley’s squad will learn of its destiny in the Big Dance this upcoming Sunday.

I’ll leave you with one final note: the last time the Friars suffered a loss as devastating as this one, it was by 32-points to Marquette back on January 4th. What ensued was an 8-game win streak. When asked about this in the post-game press conference, Ed Cooley looked the reporter right in the eyes and said, “That is exactly what I said to my team in the locker room.”

For more coverage on the BIG EAST Tournament be sure to follow Big East Coast Bias on Twitter to stay up to date with everything you need to know about tonight’s results, and tomorrow’s matchup. Creighton will play the winner of Villanova/Connecticut tomorrow, March 12th at 6:30PM. That game will be broadcasted on FOX and streamed on FOX Sports Go.