KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Marcus Foster scored 23 points, Mitch Ballock added 22 in front of his boyhood fans and Creighton beat No. 23 UCLA 100-89 on Monday night in the semifinals of the Hall of Fame Classic.
Khyri Thomas added 16 points and Ty-Shon Alexander had 12 for the Bluejays (4-0), who have won 12 straight in-season tournament games after titles at the MGM Grand Main Event and the Paradise Jam.
Creighton raced to an early lead, weathered the Bruins’ best effort midway through the second half, and then proved it could put things away with poise and precision down the stretch.
The Bluejays will play No. 25 Baylor or Wisconsin for the title Tuesday night, giving the freshman Ballock another big game close to home. He starred in high school in Eudora, Kansas.
Aaron Holiday had 25 points to lead the Bruins (3-1), who dealt with foul trouble much of the night. Prince Ali scored 18 points before fouling out, while Thomas Welsh had 16 and Kris Wilkes scored 15.
The teams combined to commit 45 fouls and shoot 66 free throws.
They traded runs in the first half, beginning with a 16-0 surge by the Bluejays that forced Bruins coach Steve Alford to use two timeouts. UCLA countered with 10 consecutive points a few minutes later, and briefly took the lead 38-36 shortly before the break.
But the Bluejays scored seven straight to finish the half and then kept their roll going to start the second, pushing their advantage to 50-38 with 18:02 left to play.
UCLA trimmed the lead to six on several occasions, but Alford’s young team kept making poor decisions. The Bruins twice were whistled for flagrant fouls down the stretch, giving Creighton two free throws and the ball, and some ill-advised shots wasted offensive possessions.
Alexander’s off-balance floater with 2:01 left could have trimmed the lead to 94-89, but Creighton grabbed the rebound. Thomas buried a 3-pointer at the other end to put the game away.
TRIO DOESN’T TRAVEL
The Bruins’ freshman trio of LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley remained suspended after they were accused of shoplifting on a trip to China. They are barred from suiting up or being on the bench and were not allowed to travel with the team to Kansas City.
PAUL THE PRINCE
Paul Silas averaged more than 20 points and 20 rebounds his senior year at Creighton, and is clearly still a beloved figure there. When he was introduced along with the rest of this year’s Hall of Fame class during a first-half timeout, the 74-year-old Silas easily got the largest ovation.
UCLA looked shaky earlier this season when it squeaked past Georgia Tech and needed overtime to beat Central Arkansas. Facing an even more potent opponent, the same Bruins defense that surrendered 101 points to the Bears struggled to contain Creighton’s versatile offense in a high-scoring affair.
Creighton proved it can hang with the big boys, even when an opponent has a huge size advantage. Ballock’s hot outside shooting stretched the UCLA defense, allowing the rest of the Bluejays to attack off the dribble and get the Bruins into foul trouble.
UCLA plays for third place on Tuesday night.
Creighton plays for its third Hall of Fame Classic championship.