August 15, 2022

This felt like a heavyweight fight gone wrong.

One of the fighters landed a big punch, and then another one, and another one. The opponent never responded. Only, except for them calling the fight like they would in boxing, it dragged on despite being all but decided a few minutes into the second half.

Fourth-seeded Creighton rode a stunning 31-2 run to an unexpectedly dominant 85-58 victory over No. 1 Providence to reach its second straight Big East Tournament final and improve to 4-0 in the league’s semifinals. It will face the winner of No. 2 Villanova/No. 3 Connecticut Saturday night at 6:30. 

Picked to finish ninth in the Big East, the young Bluejays far surpassed expectations, entering the conference tournament as a projected NCAA Tournament team. They got there despite losing Big East Freshman of the Year Ryan Nembhard to a broken right wrist in a win over St. John’s on Feb. 23. The injury hasn’t derailed their season. Creighton is now 3-2 since, having defeated Connecticut, Marquette and Providence, which suffered just its fifth loss in 29 games.

Ryan Kalkbrenner attempts a dunk.
USA TODAY Sports

The game turned late in the first half, when Creighton suddenly caught fire, scoring 17 of the final 19 points of the stanza to take a 15-point lead into the break. It scored the first 14 points of the second half, making this a laugher.

Providence didn’t have an answer for Creighton at either end of the floor. Its first two possessions of the second half resulted in shot clock violations and it missed its first nine shots. Despite star forward Ryan Hawkins scoring just eight points on 4-of-11 shooting, the Bluejays cruised, as their four other starters — Arthur Kaluma, Trey Alexander, Alex O’Connor and Ryan Kalkbrenner — all scored in double figures. The 7-foot-1 Kalkbrenner owned the paint, producing 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocks while limiting Providence star big man Nate Watson to an impact-less five points. 

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