NEW YORK (AP) — Providence is off the NCAA Tournament bubble, even if Friars coach Ed Cooley insists his team was never on it.
Kyron Cartwright hit two go-ahead free throws with 1:32 left in overtime and added a crucial basket with 16 seconds to go and fifth-seeded Providence took a big step toward a fifth straight NCAA with a 72-68 win over fourth-seeded Creighton in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament on Thursday.
“Whose bubble,” a confident Cooley said after the Friars (20-12) advanced to a semifinal matchup with top-seeded Xavier on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Cartwright said being a bubble team was something he never through about. His concern was his fellow seniors, led by Rodney Bullock and Jalen Lindsey.
“It’s our senior class,” said Cartwright, who scored five of his 13 points in the overtime. “These guys up here, it’s our last chance to play in this building like this. And we just want to play hard and leave it all on the floor. Our goal at the beginning of the year, we say it every year, is just to get to the tournament and try to win every day.”
The Friars won this one because the seniors stepped up along with sophomore Alpha Diallo.
Diallo, whose putback layup with 12 seconds left in regulation forced the overtime, had 15 of his 19 points in the second half. Bullock also had 13. Jalen Lindsey added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“This is going to be the first time in history of Providence College that a recruited class goes to four consecutive tournaments, and I can’t be more proud of this group for doing so, which is really, really hard to do given where we took this program from to where we’re trying to go,” Cooley said.
Marcus Foster had 19 points to lead Creighton (21-11), which has wins over four ranked teams this season on its NCAA resume. Davion Mintz added 14, including four free throws in the final 45 seconds that gave the Bluejays a chance to tie when Diallo missed 1 of 2 free throws with nine seconds left, leaving Providence clinging to a 71-68 lead.
Mitch Ballock got a great look at a 3-pointer from the left wing in the waning seconds but his shot was short.
Isaiah Jackson added a free throw to close out the scoring.
“I felt coming into this game that it was going to be kind of a rock fight,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It usually is when we play Providence, and today certainly fit into that category.”
Neither team led by more than three points in a final 10:32 of a regulation that featured six lead changes and four ties, with the last coming when a persistent Diallo put in his own rebound with 12 seconds to play, tying the score at 59.
Creighton elected not to call a time out and Foster, of course, controlled the ball. He dribbled the ball from left to right and right to left as the seconds ticked off. As he was about to make his move, he lost control and got off a desperation shot, which missed by five feet.
“I was looking for my step back 3 like I always do and I just lost it,” Foster said.
This was typical Big East Tournament action. It was two teams who average in the 70s and 80s, playing grind it out basketball. Sure they ran up and down the court, but every shot was contested.
NOTES: This was the first overtime game in the tournament since Xavier beat Butler in the 2015 quarterfinals. … Friars are in the conference semifinals for the fourth time in five years. … The last time Creighton played an overtime game in a conference tournament was March 4, 2012, beating Illinois State to win the Missouri Valley Conference title game. … This marked only the third time this season Creighton failed to score at least 70 points.
Providence: Will face top-seeded Xavier in the first semifinal Friday night.
Creighton: Wait for the NCAA Tournament selection show on Sunday.