PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Providence smacked Creighton around on Saturday night by simply making the most of its second chances.
Not only did 11 offensive rebounds produce 15 points in the 81-68 upset at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, but they also allowed the Friars to control the tempo against a Creighton team that normally excels at enforcing its offensive will on opponents.
“Every time they got an offensive board, they were grinding it out for another 25 or 30 seconds,” Creighton backup center Will Artino said. “With each one of those offensive boards, they shortened the game.
“Those 11 offensive rebounds cost us 11 minutes that we'd normally be able to run and allowed their guys to rest. It wore on us mentally as it helped them physically.”
The Friars, winning their third straight league game before a season-high turnout of 11,026, are talented but thin in numbers. They were coming off a double-overtime victory over St. John's on Thursday and got most of Saturday's minutes from just seven players.
No problem, Providence coach Ed Cooley said.
“Everyone kept asking if the guys are tired,” Cooley said. “They're used to playing like this. Since we've been here, we haven't had a lot of subs for whatever reasons.
“Everyone keeps asking when Bryce is going to come out of the game. When he graduates, he'll come out of the game.”
Senior guard Bryce Cotton played all 40 minutes and contributed 23 points and six assists to the winning effort. His teammates in the starting lineup all scored at least 10 points, with rugged forward LaDontae Henton finishing with 19 and Kadeem Batts 13 to go along with nine rebounds.
“Providence was really good tonight,” said Creighton coach Greg McDermott, who saw his team's five-game Big East and 10-game overall winning streaks get snapped, crackled and popped. “We didn't have the defensive focus that we've probably had in some of our recent games.
“Early in the game, we didn't get in on the fight on the backboards like we need to do against a team like Providence that prides itself in getting second opportunities. We had a hard time stopping them, and when we made a mistake, they made us pay for it.”
Providence (13-5, 3-2 Big East) broke the game open by scoring on eight of its first nine possessions to start the second half. That produced an 18-5 run that turned a seven-point halftime lead into a 55-35 bulge with 13:51 to play.
The Friars also opened the first half with points on eight of their first nine possessions.
“We usually pride ourselves on how we open games,” McDermott said, “and how we start the second half.”
Creighton also was getting pretty proud of the way it had been rebounding and playing defense in its first five league wins. The move to the Big East was supposed to pit the Bluejays against players who were bigger, stronger and longer.
Creighton had negated its deficiencies in length and athleticism in those five victories but had few counters for a Providence starting lineup that featured two 6-9 forwards in Batts and Tyler Harris and a 6-6 bruiser in Henton. The Friars also brought 7-foot Carson Desrosiers off the bench, and he chipped in four points, two rebounds and three blocked shots.
“They just pushed us down low, and that's not what we're used to,” Creighton All-America forward Doug McDermott said. “That allowed them to get a lot of easy second-chance points.”
McDermott led Creighton with 21 points and seven rebounds but struggled to get clean looks the deeper the Bluejays got into the game. Devin Brooks was the only other Bluejay to score in double figures as he finished with 10, while Jahenns Manigat and Artino each added nine.
Creighton, which leads the nation in 3-point shooting and baskets, made just 4 of 19 shots from beyond the arc. Providence, which has struggled to make shots from beyond the arc this season, converted 7 of 20.
Cotton got nine of his points by making three 3-pointers. Overall, Providence shot 50.9 percent from the field and built a 33-27 rebounding advantage, although that edge was 10 (19-9) when it held an 11-0 edge in second-chance points.
“They did some things differently than those other teams that we've faced,” Creighton forward Ethan Wragge said. “They usually had four guys in or close to the paint when a shot went up, and it was just a fight down there.
“We just couldn't get our hands on the ball.”
The loss took some luster off Monday's game at No. 6 Villanova. The Wildcats defeated DePaul on Saturday to take sole possession of first place in the league at 5-0. Creighton, now 5-1 and 15-3 overall, sits in second, a half-game ahead of Xavier.
“We have to have a short memory, because we're going to be playing one of the best teams in the country,” Doug McDermott said. “We got punched in the face tonight, and it's our choice if we want to get back up and put up another fight or look the other way.
“I'll make sure my team will be ready to go on Monday. We'll be prepared, and it's going to be a good game.”
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Video: Recap of Creighton-Providence