PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The strides Creighton had been making on the defensive end turned into a stumble Saturday night against Providence.
The Friars shot 50.9 percent from the field in an 81-68 upset of the No. 20 Bluejays. Providence became the first team this season to make at least half of its field-goal attempts against Creighton, which had held three of its first five Big East opponents under 40 percent shooting from the field.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott said his team's defensive focus wasn't as sharp in the Dunkin' Donuts Center as it has been in recent games. Asked why, and McDermott said he'll need to take a more detailed look at the videotape.
“Early in the game, we got beat on a couple of cuts that we should have been in the right spots,” he said. “Two of their first five or six scores were a result of an offensive rebound.
“You do your job, and it's a little deflating when they get easy baskets like that. We have to watch the film and see why those things happened.”
McDermott doesn't need to study the film to know that some of his defensive problems were caused by Providence guard Bryce Cotton. The 6-foot-1 senior led the Friars with 23 points and added six assists to his league-leading total.
The points that Cotton scored, McDermott said, might not have been his biggest contribution to the win.
“This is by far the lowest possession game we've played all year, and Cotton did a great job of controlling the tempo of that game,” McDermott said. “He's got the ball in his hands all the time, and it's difficult to get it out of his hands.
“He creates a lot of opportunities for his teammates, and he obviously made a lot of big plays tonight.”
Father and son downplayed the impact that Doug McDermott's queasy stomach might have had on the outcome.
Greg McDermott said his son might not have been 100 percent against Providence but that figured little into Doug's performance. McDermott had team-high totals of 21 points and seven rebounds but made several uncharacteristic mistakes, including missing a wide-open layup on Creighton's opening possession.
Doug McDermott slipped his defender, caught a pass and shot the ball over the basket.
“I just think his hands were a little cold and it just slipped,” Greg McDermott said. “He missed a couple of shots early that he doesn't normally miss but that's going to happen once in a while.”
Doug McDermott refused to use his stomach problem as an excuse.
“I never threw up but I had an upset stomach,” he said. “I've played through it before. I have to do better than that and bring energy to my team. That wasn't out there tonight.”
Several of McDermott's teammates have been battling illness. Starting guard Avery Dingman, who did not score and grabbed just one rebound, missed Thursday's practice with a stomach ailment. He returned on Friday, while some of the other Bluejays have been bothered by cold-like symptoms.
Creighton forward Ethan Wragge reached a scoring milestone but he was hardly in the mood to celebrate it.
Wragge scored eight points to become the 38th player in Creighton history to score 1,000 in his career. Points 999 and 1,000 came when he made two free throws with 10:55 to play. His other points against the Friars came, naturally, on a pair of 3-point baskets.
“Those were my first two free throws in a while,” said Wragge with a chuckle. “It's just over with now, and I can look on adding to it.”
Providence coach Ed Cooley obviously was thrilled with his team's first victory over a ranked team since the Friars defeated Notre Dame last February.
“I'm proud of my guys, playing against a ranked team that has one of the best, if not the best, offensive players in the country,” Cooley said. “But when you come to the Dunk, strange things happen.”
Providence won while in front of its season-largest crowd of 11,026 at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. The game was billed as Armed Forces Appreciation Night, and several U.S. servicemen from the area were honored during the game.
Cotton, too, was pleased with the effort that resulted in the Friars' third straight win in league play after they had opened 0-2.
“We have our mojo back,” Cotton said, “and we're playing like the team we know we can be.”
» Doug McDermott's 21 points pushed his career scoring total to 2,665 points and pushed him past former Oklahoma star Wayman Tisdale into 24th place on the NCAA's all-time chart.
» Creighton never led, and the Bluejays' comeback effort in the first half was hamstrung by foul trouble. Wragge picked up his second foul with 5:24 left in the half, while McDermott went to the bench with his second with 4:07 left. Jahenns Manigat also got whistled for his second foul with 1:14 left.
» Down by 20 points early in the second half, Creighton did manage to trim its deficit to 73-64 with 1:32 to play. Free throws and a Kadeem Batts fast-break dunk sealed the win for the Friars.