Providence boosts NCAA Tournament bid with 78-73 win over No. 8 Creighton in Big East quarterfinal


NEW YORK — Devin Carter and his Providence teammates are doing all they can at Madison Square Garden to remove any doubt about their NCAA Tournament prospects.

The newly minted Big East player of the year had 22 points and 11 rebounds as Providence secured a huge victory for its postseason resume, holding off No. 8 Creighton 78-73 in the conference quarterfinals Thursday night.

“I think it was a must-win game. We want to keep our tournament dreams alive and we also want to get a Big East championship,” said Carter, who played all 40 minutes.

Josh Oduro added 17 points and nine boards for the seventh-seeded Friars (21-12), who recovered over the final five-plus minutes after squandering a 13-point lead in the second half. They will face No. 10 Marquette in the second semifinal Friday night after the third-seeded Golden Eagles defeated No. 6 seed Villanova 71-65 in overtime.

Jayden Pierre had 15 points and seven assists, hitting several clutch shots down the stretch before Carter salted away the win with a late drive and four free throws in the last 1:40.

“He’s a warrior,” first-year Friars coach Kim English said. “A few moments throughout the season, I’m just in awe. He’s once in a lifetime.”

Ryan Kalkbrenner had 19 points and 12 rebounds for second-seeded Creighton (23-9), still likely to receive a high seed in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. But it was the latest Big East Tournament disappointment for the Bluejays, who have never won this event — going 0-4 in finals appearances.

“Obviously, a very physical game. We had some chances late. I’m proud that we didn’t quit,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “We weren’t quite ourselves defensively for a good portion of the game.”

Trey Alexander also scored 19 for the Bluejays, while Baylor Scheierman added 16 points and 13 boards. Steven Ashworth finished with 16 points as well.

Creighton made its first 20 free throws before missing three in a row late, which hurt. The Bluejays had won three straight and seven of eight.

Providence was 14 for 14 at the foul line, including nine free throws for Carter.

“This was one of our best efforts of the season,” English said. “Really proud of our group. They deserve all the glory.”

After trailing 53-40 with under 14 minutes left, the Bluejays put together a 13-2 spurt and grabbed their first lead since midway through the first half when Alexander’s short jumper put them ahead 64-63 with 5:35 remaining.

Pierre put Providence back in front with two free throws, and the teams went back and forth down the stretch. He scored seven straight points for the Friars and his 3-pointer put them ahead for good, 70-68, with 3:35 remaining. Carter’s drive made it a four-point advantage, and Oduro’s bank shot extended the margin to 74-68 with 54 seconds to play.

Carter went 4 for 4 at the foul line in the final minute to seal it, delighting a Providence-partisan crowd at sold-out MSG.

Providence, which beat No. 10 seed Georgetown 74-56 in the first round Wednesday night, had lost three of four entering the tournament and was sitting squarely on the NCAA bubble. But the Friars’ case for an at-large bid keeps getting better — this was their sixth Quad 1 win of the season.

“We’re tough. You have to be. Talked about it yesterday. We talked about if you’re not prepared in this league, focused, it’s like a cannonball going through your chest,” English said. “So we’re tough. We’ve been tough. You have to be tough to play in this conference.”

English was whistled for a technical foul early in the game when he grew enraged at an official for calling a foul on Carter as he deflected a 3-point attempt by Creighton.

Shouting and cursing at the referees, English was restrained by his assistants along the sideline.

“I got a tech? Oh, I didn’t know that,” English said with more than a hint of sarcasm. “I thought Devin got a clean block and great play. In a game of this magnitude, I lost my way a little bit — or a lot of bit. … I thought our guys responded really well.”

Creighton made all five free throws awarded to open a 13-6 lead, but the Friars answered with a 12-0 run later in the half to build a nine-point advantage of their own.

Carter had 11 points and seven rebounds as Providence went into halftime with a 33-30 edge.

UP NEXT

Providence split two regular-season meetings with Marquette and lost both games to Villanova.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball



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