Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Sports

Friars shut down Creighton for Big East title

NEW YORK — Bryce Cotton scored 23 and Providence won its first Big East tournament title since 1994 with a tremendous defensive effort against Doug McDermott and No. 14 Creighton in a 65-58 victory Saturday night.

The fourth-seeded Friars (23-11) used a 2-3 zone to hold the second-seeded Bluejays (26-7) 24 points below their season average and to 8 for 30 3-point shooting before a crowd of 15,290 at Madison Square Garden.

Cotton, a senior guard who finished second to McDermott in the conference in scoring and was a unanimous All-Big East selection, was the scoring star in the championship game and was selected tournament MVP.

McDermott, who went in leading the nation averaging 26.5 points per game, made 10 of 19 shots from the field and 5 of 12 3-pointers for 27 points. He shined in his first two Big East tournament games, getting 35 in the quarterfinals against DePaul and 32 in the semifinal win over Xavier.

He had nine points at halftime as Providence held the Bluejays to 17, their season low for any half, in taking a nine-point lead.

The Friars led by 12 twice in the second half, the last time at 45-33 on a jumper by Kadeem Batts with 12:47 left.

The Bluejays got as close as 58-56 on McDermott's fifth and final 3 with 1:18 to play.

But the Friars held on from the free throw line, making all eight over the final 2:47 while hitting just one shot from the field.

Providence and its zone had caused problems for Creighton before. The Friars held the Bluejays to 4-of-19 3-point shooting in an 81-68 victory in January. McDermott had it figured out in the rematch, scoring 45 in his last home game just a week earlier. The Friars took the advantage back Saturday night, and with it their first Big East title in 20 years.

Creighton reached the title game in its first season in the Big East. The Bluejays, who didn't trail in the tournament until this game, won the last two Missouri Valley Conference titles before leaving. Creighton had won 10 straight conference championship games, last losing to Tulsa in the 1984 Missouri Valley Conference title game.

PAC-12: UCLA took home a conference championship in its first season under Steve Alford.

Outlasting one of the best closing teams in basketball, UCLA knocked off No. 4 Arizona 75-71 in the tournament final in Las Vegas.

"We've got an edge to us now; it's a lot of fun," Alford said. "To win a championship means a lot to us."

The Wildcats (30-4) locked UCLA down in the second half after an offensive show in the first. The Bruins (26-8) countered by doing the same to Arizona down the stretch, then made big plays against the big-play Wildcats to finish it off.

UCLA point guard Kyle Anderson was at his all-around best, finishing with 21 points, 15 rebounds and five assists.

MOUNTAIN WEST: San Diego State grabbed the lead with 81 seconds left in a tight championship game in Las Vegas. It couldn't close the deal.

No. 20 New Mexico State took the No. 8 Aztecs' shot, steadied itself and won the league title and NCAA automatic bid with a 64-58 victory.

The top-seeded Aztecs (29-4) completed an 8-0 run over second-seeded New Mexico (27-6) and took a 57-56 lead when Winston Shepard stole Hugh Greenwood's inbounds pass and passed to Dwayne Polee II, who was fouled while successfully driving in to the basket. Polee completed the three-point play.

A deep 3-pointer by Kendall Williams with 24 seconds left gave New Mexico a 62-57 lead and cemented the win.

BIG 12: DeAndre Kane scored 17 and No. 16 Iowa State rallied to beat Baylor 74-65 in Kansas City, Mo., to win its first tournament title since 2000.

Naz Long and Dustin Hogue had 12 points apiece and Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim finished with 10 points and nine rebounds for the fourth-seeded Cyclones (26-7), who knocked off top-seeded Kansas in the semifinals before ending the Bears' tremendous tournament run. Kenny Chery had 16 points for the seventh-seeded Bears (24-11).

ATLANTIC 10: Treveon Graham scored 22, and No. 23 Virginia Commonwealth pressed and pressured its way into another conference tournament championship game with a 74-55 semifinal win over George Washington in New York. The second-seeded Rams (26-7) face fourth-seeded Saint Joseph's (23-9), a 67-48 winner over St. Bonaventure.

AMERICA EAST: Fourth-seeded Albany (18-14) scored 23 of the final 31 to defeat Stony Brook 69-60 in Stony Brook, N.Y., for its second straight NCAA Tournament berth.

BIG SKY: Kyle Tresnak scored 27 to help top-seeded Weber State (19-11) beat North Dakota 88-67 in Ogden, Utah, for its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007.

C-USA: James Woodard scored 27 to lead second-seeded Tulsa (21-12) to its first NCAA berth since 2003 with a 69-60 victory over Louisiana Tech in El Paso, Texas. "It's an indescribable feeling," said Woodard, who is from Tulsa. "Growing up as a kid, you can't wait for March Madness. To be a part of that, this time around, and for us being so young as a team, it's definitely a dream come true."

MAC: David Brown scored 32, Tucker Haymond added 21 and top-seeded Western Michigan (23-9) earned its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 10 years by beating Toledo 98-77 in Cleveland.

MEAC: Jeremy Ingram scored 29 for top-seeded N.C. Central (28-5), which used an 8-1 run to get some separation and held on to beat Morgan State 71-62 in Norfolk, Va. The Eagles reached the NCAA Tournament in their third year in Division I.

SOUTHLAND: Thomas Walkup had 19 points and top-seeded Stephen F. Austin (31-2) used a big second-half run to defeat Sam Houston State 68-49 in Katy, Texas, and earn its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2009.

SWAC: Aaric Murray had 27 points and 10 rebounds to lead second-seeded Texas Southern (19-14) to a 78-73 win over Prairie View in Houston, clinching its fifth NCAA Tournament bid and first since 2003.

DIVISION II: Saint Leo (24-8) hung on for a 75-67 win over West Alabama in the first round of the South Region at Florida Southern's Jenkins Fieldhouse in Lakeland. The Lions face Delta State at 5 p.m. today. Tampa (22-10) saw its season end with a 72-68 loss to North Alabama.

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