INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. –(CU Athletics Mar. 22)– A 23-5 run spanning halftime helped the 19th-ranked and fifth-seeded Creighton men’s basketball team make history on Monday evening at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse as the Bluejays earned a trip to the Sweet 16 with a 72-58 victory over 13th-seeded Ohio.
With the win, Creighton (22-8) advances to a game next Sunday vs. top-ranked and unbeaten Gonzaga (28-0) at a time and venue in Indianapolis to be determined later tonight. Creighton is 6-4 all-time against the Bulldogs. The Mid-American Conference champions, Ohio finishes its season with a 17-8 record.
It’s the first time Creighton has won consecutive NCAA Tournament games in the same season in program history, and first time among the final 16 teams since 1974. Back in 1974, the tournament field was just 25 teams.
Creighton missed its first five shots before an alley-oop to Christian Bishop and wouldn’t take its first lead until a Marcus Zegarowski three-pointer with 10:42 left in the half put the Jays ahead 13-11.
Creighton’s offense started to click midway through the first half. Tied at 19, the Bluejays used back-to-back dunks by Bishop to initiate a 10-3 spurt that made it 29-22. The Bluejay run grew to 20-5 as they took a 39-24 lead into the half, its largest intermission edge ever in an NCAA Tournament game while sinking half of its 34 attempts from the field and holding Ohio to 31.3 percent shooting. Ohio star Jason Preston played all 20 minutes in the first half but was 0-for-5 from the floor and had just one free throw. Zegarowski topped CU with 13 points and Bishop contributed eight points and six rebounds.
CU then forced a turnover to open the second half and promptly found Mitch Ballock for an open three-pointer for the senior’s first points, which made it 42-24. Back-to-back triples by Damien Jefferson and Zegarowski advanced the Bluejay edge to 52-31 with 14:41 left. Preston, who approached a triple-double vs. Virginia on Saturday, wouldn’t convert a field goal until 12:22 remained in the game, and it came on his seventh shot attempt.
Ohio fought back, crashing the offensive glass and getting four points by Dwight Wilson III to get within 54-41 with 10:01 to play but Creighton would compile consecutive stops and stemmed the tide on a score by Jefferson.
A late rally by the Bobcats, highlighted by a three-ball from Mark Sears, trimmed Creighton’s lead to single digits at 65-56 (2:26), but Zegarowski closed the door with four straight to ignite a 7-0 run for Creighton.
Zegarowski led five Bluejays in double-figures with 20 points. Creighton got a combined 68 points from its starting five, getting 15 from Jefferson, 12 from Bishop, 11 from Denzel Mahoney and 10 from Ballock. Bishop closed the game with a double-double, his sixth of the season, grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds.
Wilson led the way for the Bobcats with 12 points, but the Bluejays limited Preston to four points on 1-of-10 from the field.