LAS VEGAS — Creighton didn't miss its second opportunity to land a knockout punch Saturday against Arizona State.
The Bluejays had a chance to take out the Sun Devils early but didn't succeed. Then, with the outcome on the line late, Creighton used a closing spurt to secure its 87-73 victory at the Orleans Arena.
The victory hiked Creighton to 6-0 but the Bluejays will have little chance to relax with a tough week coming up with home games against Boise State and St. Joseph's.
“We'll celebrate this one a couple of hours,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said, “before we get back to work.”
McDermott's team blew out to an 18-point lead eight minutes into the game but allowed Arizona State to claw its way back into the hard-fought battle that saw 47 fouls called. The Sun Devils were still within six points with 2:51 to play before Creighton sealed the deal.
The Bluejays started their closing spurt with two free throws from Jahenns Manigat before Ethan Wragge knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner.
“I had missed a wide-open one a couple of possessions before,” Wragge said. “I had to find a way to redeem myself.”
After Arizona State missed a shot, Josh Jones scored on a layup before Grant Gibbs drove for the basket that made it 84-71 with 1:16 to play.
“If we would have strung together a couple of stops when we had them down 18 early, they might have folded,” Wragge said. “But they hit some 3s and a three-point play and got right back into it. It was a battle the rest of the way.”
One that turned in Creighton's favor because of its 41-30 rebounding advantage. That led to a 14-0 advantage in second-chance points for the Bluejays, and they also turned 18 Arizona State turnovers into 25 points.
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“They really cause you matchup problems,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. “And they don't beat themselves.”
Sendek's team, particularly Jahii Carson, caused Creighton more than its share of headaches. Carson scored a game-high 30 points and had seven assists.
“We did a lot of good things,” Sendek said. “We continued to attack and cut into some pretty big leads but we just never could get it under six.”
Doug McDermott, named the tournament's most valuable player, led the Bluejays with 29 points. The 6-foot-8 junior forward scored 30 in Creighton's semifinal win against Wisconsin.
“This is huge for our confidence, especially coming here and getting two wins over big-time teams,” McDermott said. “But we know we have a big week coming up. Boise State has only lost once, to Michigan State. St. Joe's beat us last year and has everyone back.”
Wragge added 13 points and joined McDermott on the all-tournament team. Jones finished with nine points, and the Bluejays also got eight each from Manigat and Gibbs.
Gibbs handed out seven assists while pressed into extensive duty at the point guard position because of starter Austin Chatman's foul trouble. He fouled out, as did center Gregory Echenique, who played 12 minutes.
Creighton twice pushed its nine-point halftime lead to 11 early in the second half but the Sun Devils refused to give in. After Jones hit a floater to make it 59-48, Evan Gordon scored on a drive and Carson stole the ball and turned it into a three-point play to pull the Sun Devils within 59-53 with 12:22 to play.
The Bluejays countered with an 8-0 run that saw Gregory Echenique make a free throw, Gibbs score on a floater, Jahenns Manigat bury a 3-pointer from the corner and Echenique make two more free throws. That put Creighton ahead 67-53 with 9:39 to play.
Jordan Bachynski stopped the run with a hook shot and the Sun Devils got back within 69-58 when Carson converted a three-point play with 8:27 remaining. Wragge made two free throws after being fouled on a rebound to push the lead back to 13. The Sun Devils came back with a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 73-66 before McDermott scored on a layup with 3:45 remaining.
Jonathan Gilling followed with a 3-point basket to make it 75-69 with 3:21 remaining.
Creighton broke out of the gate on fire, making 10 of its first 14 shots in building a 27-9 lead with 11:52 to play. The Sun Devils countered quickly, scoring nine points in 25 seconds as Gilling and Felix nailed 3-pointers and Carson had a three-point play after a steal.
That ignited a 15-4 spurt that got Arizona State back within 31-24 with 8:10 left in the half. A Will Artino tip-in and two McDermott free throws pushed the lead back to 11 but a 3-pointer by Felix and his dunk trimmed Creighton's lead to 37-31.
Creighton used a 6-1 run to push its lead to 45-34 with 1:05 left in the half but Carson's two free throws got the Sun Devils back within nine points at halftime.
The Bluejays, who made 5 of their first 6 shots from 3-point range, missed their last six shots of the half from beyond the arc. They finished the half making 47.1 percent of their field-goal attempts compared to Arizona State's 48.1 percent shooting.
Creighton used 12 Arizona State turnovers to build a 15-9 advantage in points off turnovers.
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