Providence-Creighton Preview

The Associated Press

Doug McDermott is putting on a shooting display at Madison Square Garden, and he has Creighton on the verge of winning the Big East tournament championship.

Providence is fully aware of McDermott's scoring exploits.

A week after McDermott scored a career high against the Friars, the 14th-ranked Bluejays and Providence take the court for the tournament title in a matchup between the Big East's old guard and a league newcomer.

McDermott made quite an entrance at the Big East tournament for second-seeded Creighton (26-6), scoring a record 27 of his 35 points in the first half in Thursday's 84-62 win over DePaul in the quarterfinals. He followed that up by finishing with 32 on 10-of-20 shooting in an 86-78 victory over Xavier in Friday's semifinals.

Fourth-seeded Providence (22-11) doesn't need much of a reminder of how the Big East player of the year can score at will.

McDermott, who is trying to become the 11th three-time All-America, had 45 points in last Saturday's 88-73 win over the Friars in the regular-season finale. He was 17 of 25 - including 5 of 7 from 3-point range - and reached the 3,000-point mark for his career midway through the second half. His point total is up to 3,078, ranking him fifth all-time.

''Someone's definitely keeping track of them for me. I don't think about that too much,'' McDermott said of climbing the scoring charts. ''It's been really cool, though, just seeing that happen. But it's all credit to our coaches and my teammates.''

He wasn't as effective in the first meeting with Providence on Jan. 18, going 8 of 15 for 21 points in an 81-68 loss. It didn't help the rest of Creighton's starting five combined for 19 points on 7-of-20 shooting, and the Blue Jays made a season-low four 3-pointers - well off their season average of 10.4.

Providence bounced back from last week's loss to Creighton by beating St. John's by five on Thursday and Seton Hall 80-74 the next night to reach the Big East championship game for the second time. It defeated Georgetown for the 1994 title.

''That was then. This a new era. This is a new Big East,'' coach Ed Cooley said.

Creighton is one of the conference's newcomers and is the first Big East team to reach the tournament final in its first year in the league since Villanova in 1981. The Bluejays won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament each of the last two years will make the NCAA tournament for a third straight season.

"To be on the stage we're going to be on (Saturday) night is a fitting way for an incredible senior class to end their regular season careers to play for a Big East title," coach Greg McDermott said. "So they played in two championship games in the Missouri Valley Conference and won them both, and then they come back this year and get back to the championship game in a league as good as the Big East is really a credit to their career, to their perseverance, to their toughness, and to their willingness to play unselfish basketball.''

The Friars may have nailed down their first NCAA tournament berth since 2004 by reaching the title game at MSG. Of course, a win over the Bluejays for the conference's automatic berth would take away any possible debate for the selection committee.

''This was one of our goals coming into the season. Madison Square Garden, it's a big place to play at, a great place to play at,'' said LaDontae Henton, "and we know we can compete with all the teams in here."

Henton scored a season-high 26 points and added 14 rebounds Friday. He is averaging 20.8 points and 12.0 boards in four games this month.

Bryce Cotton, a unanimous first-team all-Big East selection, bounced back from a 1-for-10 shooting performance against St. John's to finish with 18 points and 10 assists in the semifinal. He had 23 points in each game against Creighton.

The Bluejays, the nation's top 3-point shooting team at 42.7 percent, have gone 35 of 67 (52.2 percent) from beyond the arc in their last three games.

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