OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nate Watson scored a career-high 29 points and Providence turned back Creighton each time it pulled close to beat the 11th-ranked Bluejays 74-70 on Wednesday night.
Providence (8-6, 4-4 Big East) won for the first time in four games and avenged a crushing loss to the Bluejays three weeks ago. Creighton (10-4, 6-3) lost its second straight after one of its worst offensive games of the season.
The Friars built an early 17-point lead behind the strong inside play of the 6-foot-10, 260-pound Watson. Creighton battled back to 39-34 at halftime, fell behind by double digits in the second half and then made late runs that fell short.
The Bluejays were within two points four times in the final six minutes, the last two occasions in the last 57 seconds.
Mitch Ballock snaked inside for his only basket, but David Duke banked in a contested 3-pointer from the left wing on the Friars’ next possession to make it 70-65.
The teams traded free throws before Marcus Zegarowski banked in a one-handed 3 of his own with 5.6 seconds left. Duke put the game out of reach with two free throws at the end.
Alyn Breed had 15 points, Duke added 12 and Jimmy Nichols Jr. scored 10 for the Friars, who were playing the third of four straight road games.
Damien Jefferson scored a career-best 26 points for the Bluejays. Zegarowski, who missed the previous two games with a left hamstring injury, had 17 points and Christian Bishop added 12.
Creighton shot a season-low 17.4% (4 of 23) on 3-pointers and missed eight of its 24 free throws.
The Bluejays were behind by 17 nine minutes after tipoff. They missed 12 of their first 14 shots and went more than six minutes without a field goal while Providence built its big lead.
A.J. Reeves’ dunk in transition put the Friars up 13-2 and prompted Creighton coach Greg McDermott to call a timeout. McDermott tried different combinations to slow down Providence and the powerful Watson, who worked over the Bluejays inside and scored 13 points in the first half.
Providence lost 67-65 to the Bluejays on Jan. 2 after making up a big deficit with a late 17-4 run. Creighton won when Bishop dunked with less than a second left.
Providence: The Friars were without point guard Jared Bynum (groin) for the third straight game and avoided their longest losing streak since 2012-13 with a gutty road effort.
Creighton: The Bluejays live and die by the 3-pointer, and they’re struggling mightily right now. They’re shooting 21.7% (10 of 46) from long distance in their last two games.
Providence visits No. 3 Villanova on Saturday.
Creighton hosts No. 23 Connecticut on Saturday. The Bluejays won 76-74 in overtime at UConn on Dec. 20.
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