With a 59-56 victory over Connecticut Friday evening, Creighton advances to the finals of the Big East tournament Saturday night.
Starting with a slim deficit early on, the Jays faced an upward battle to start the first half.
“It was nothing we haven’t seen before, we've been facing games like that all year so it was nothing new to us,” senior forward Damien Jefferson said. “We just had to stay composed and do what we had to and play the right way.”
Jefferson was the team’s leading scorer with 14 points and led in rebounds with 12 boards.
The Bluejays relied on that rebound advantage – with 55 rebounds to the Huskies 33 – and the Bluejays carried the advantage on both the offensive and defensive glass.
“It was the defensive end that got us back in it,” coach Greg McDermott said. “A guy like Alex O’Connell plays 10 minutes and gets eight rebounds.”
Creighton relied on O’Connell and other bench players as the Jays faced foul trouble.
Jefferson also helped defend James Bouknight, who dropped 40 on the Bluejays in the teams’ matchup on Dec. 20.
In the Friday semifinal, however, Bouknight shot 4-14 from the floor, ending with just 14 points.
“We kept him to the pace we wanted him to be at and we did a good job with that and obviously came out with the win,” Jefferson said.
McDermott credited his senior forward with keeping his team in the right mindset throughout the game, and for keeping himself in it especially late.
“If you ask me what I like about him? Everything. He has developed into such a complete player,” McDermott said of Jefferson. “What he does on the floor is only a small part of what he does for our program.”
Juniors Marcus Zegarowski and Christian Bishop were the only other Bluejays in double digits Friday night as the Jays shot 37.1%.
“We didn’t shoot it great and obviously UConn has a lot to do with that,” McDermott said. “This is a hard team to play against and in all three games scoring is tough to come by so you have to figure out other ways to win.”
This was Creighton’s third win over the Huskies this season.
With the victory the Bluejays now face Georgetown for the Big East championship tomorrow night.
“Taking it one game at a time we gotta play Georgetown just like how we approach every game and that’s to play the Creighton way and play the right way and obviously get some stops,” Jefferson said.
Tip off is at 5:30 on FS1.