New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The fourth-seeded Providence Friars will try for their first Big East Conference Tournament title since 1994 when they take on the second-seeded and 14th-ranked Creighton Bluejays in the championship game on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Providence (22-11) has helped its NCAA Tournament resume immensely with its performance during this event, as it defeated St. John's in the quarterfinals (79-74) before capturing an 80-74 victory over Seton Hall in the semifinal round on Friday night for its fifth win in the past six games. The Friars led by just one midway through the second half but gained separation with a 10-2 run, as their finished the contest shooting 23-of-47 from the field (.489) and 25-of-35 at the free-throw line (.714). LaDontae Henton was the catalyst with 26 points and 14 rebounds, shooting 9-of-13 from the field in the process. Bryce Cotton also tallied a double-double with 18 points and 10 assists, while Tyler Harris chipped in with 17 points.
Creighton (26-6), which is in its first season as a member of the Big East and won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in 2012 and 2013, defeated DePaul in the quarterfinals, 84-62, prior to its semifinal-round triumph over third-seeded Xavier, 86-78, as it ran out to a 12-point halftime lead and fended off a late Musketeers' comeback to hold on. Doug McDermott was his usual outstanding self with 32 points -- his third straight game with 30+ points -- on 10-of-20 from the field and a perfect 10-of-10 at the free-throw line. Ethan Wragge knocked down 5-of-9 from 3-point range for 17 points, while Austin Chatman added 11 points.
The Friars picked up a signature win over the Bluejays in Providence on Jan. 18, but Creighton had its revenge at home in the regular-season finale, 88-73. Providence leads the all-time series by a 7-5 margin.
Although the Friars shoot just 42.6 percent from the field this season, they have an outstanding free-throw percentage (.778) and score 73.5 ppg, which has been enough to support a modest defensive showing (69.9 ppg). Cotton acts as the heart and soul of the squad with 21.3 ppg and 5.9 apg. Henton (14.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg) and Kadeem Batts (12.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg) are an impressive duo in the frontcourt, while Harris brings 11.6 ppg to the table.
The Bluejays have been defined on the campaign by their excellent offense, as they pour in 80.2 ppg and own the nation's fourth-best field-goal percentage (.501) and the top-ranked 3-point percentage (.427), and their defensive effort (67.5 ppg) has been stellar as well. It's nearly a foregone conclusion that McDermott walks away with the Naismith Award later this year, as he leads the country in scoring (26.9 ppg) with tremendous percentages from the field (.525), beyond the arc (.456) and the foul line (.865), while adding 7.0 rpg for good measure. Wragge (10.7 ppg) has taken advantage of McDermott double- teams by making 103 3-pointers at a blistering 48.4 percent clip.