Big East semifinals: A tempo free look

Friday night in the Big East. Semifinal night. One game one sided and another down to the wire…

Creighton 85 Providence 58

Possessions: 68

Offensive efficiency: Creighton 125 , Providence 85

What Creighton did well. Defend and dominate. Providence entered the game with an average efficiency of 108 (tied for second with UConn) in Big East play. They were held far below that norm. Nate Watson, the Friars’ outstanding low post threat, was limited to 5 points, 4 rebounds. Blue Jays led 42-27 at intermission and never looked back.

What Providence did well. Care for the ball. On a very tough night for Ed Cooley and co., a silver lining was limiting turnovers. Providence committed only 9 to check in with a commendable 13% turnover rate.

Leading scorers: Al Durham, Providence, 21 points.

Alex O’Connell, Creighton, 18 points.

Villanova 63 UConn 60

Possessions: 57

Offensive efficiency: Villanova 111, UConn 105

What UConn did well. Crash the offensive boards. Danny Hurley's Huskies had a 39-19% edge on offensive rebounding percentage. In raw numbers they out rebounded Villanova 15-6 on the offensive glass with Adama Sangoro pulling down seven.

What Villanova did well. Care for the ball and shoot well. Wildcats had 6 turnovers for an outstanding 10% turnover rate. Jay Wright’s group attempted 30 of their 54 shots from three point range. They were 33% from beyond the arc and 54% inside. Low turnovers and good shooting equals an excellent offensive efficiency.

Leading scorers; Jermaine Samuels, Villanova, 21 points.

Tyrese Martin, UConn, 19 points

A big factor in Creighton’s limiting Providence from the perimeter was Ryan Kalkbrenner. The 7’1" sophomore and Big East Defensive Player of the Year, was able to match up one on one with Providence’s Nate Watson per coach Greg McDermott. Not doubling Watson, which many teams do, freed another defender to help on the perimeter. On the night, Providence was 3 of 24 (13%) from three.

This will be Creighton’s fourth trip to the finals in its eight year Big East Tournament history (2020 saw the tournament ended early due to Covid). The Blue Jays were runners-up in 2014, 2017 and 2021. Creighton and Villanova split the season series with each winning on its home floor.

Villanova is playing for the title for the sixth time since 2015.

Beside his game-high 21 points Samuels set the pace with a 12 rebound effort. The 6’7" senior was close to not playing. Back spasms were so painful Samuels couldn’t stand long enough to go participate in the team walk-through on Friday. Some work from a chiropractor and masseuse got Samuels ready. Those contributions plus two clutch free throws with 15 seconds remaining punched ‘Nova’s ticket to the final.

Creighton is on a roll of late. Especially the way they’ve defended in this tourney. This week Villanova has simply handled any adversity and found a way to win.

Should be a great final worthy of playing out on the ‘big stage’.

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