Jays rally from 12-point deficit in second half, but falter in final minutes at Seton Hall

NEWARK, N.J. — Creighton erased a 12-point second-half deficit to put itself in position to pick up an important win at Seton Hall on Saturday. But the Bluejays couldn’t close the game out in the final moments.

CU led 54-48 with 4:34 left after sophomore Ty-Shon Alexander’s 3-pointer. But the Jays missed all five of their field goal tries after that, turning the ball over once and accumulating its final four points at the foul line.

That was enough of a drought for Seton Hall (14-9, 5-6 Big East) — led by junior Myles Powell — to rally late for a 63-58 victory in a key swing game for teams clinging to fading NCAA tournament hopes. Powell scored 13 of his 22 points in the final four minutes.

The defeat for Creighton (13-11, 4-7) unfolded similarly to Wednesday’s overtime loss at No. 14 Villanova, when CU fought and battled in a slugfest but managed one point in the final four minutes of regulation.

“This is a locker room that really cares and it’s really disappointed with what transpired,” coach Greg McDermott said on his postgame radio show. “Because we felt like we did enough things in Philadelphia on Wednesday to win. We felt like we did enough things here (Saturday) to win.

“We came up a little short.”

Powell was a major reason why.

The bulky and explosive 6-foot-2 guard managed nine points on a foul-plagued night during the first 36 minutes. But he came alive at the end.

His three free throws put Seton Hall in front 57-56 with 1:48 left. After Alexander made two at the line, Powell answered by sinking a contested leaner in the paint to give the Pirates the lead for good at 59-58 with 1:16 remaining.

Powell finished CU off with four more free throws. He scored all but two of the Pirates’ final 15 points.

“We lost discipline,” freshman Christian Bishop said. “We’ve just got to stick to what we do, and when we do that, we can beat a lot of great teams.”

Getting over the hump will be the next challenge for the Jays, who finish off their three-game road trip at Xavier Wednesday.

A win Saturday could have moved Creighton into a five-way tie for third in the Big East. Instead, Seton Hall joined that congested middle tier — and boosted its postseason résumé after a 2-6 skid the past four weeks.

But CU gets a chance for some revenge in a week. It hosts the Pirates Feb. 17 in Omaha.

But the Jays have some work to do.

They made 20 of 66 field goal attempts Saturday (30.6 percent). It was their worst shooting performance of the season.

And at least for a particular stretch, the offensive woes seemed to influence CU’s energy, McDermott said. After going 10 of 35 from the floor in the first half, Creighton missed its first six shots after halftime.

Seton Hall went on a 10-0 run during that stretch.

“Our guys hung their heads and we let it impact us on the defensive end,” McDermott said. “And all of a sudden, we dig ourselves a 12-point hole.

“But we took the timeout. And I thought we came out of the timeout really moving the basketball, really connected defensively, doing what we had to do to get back in the game.”

CU’s big men played a significant part in that.

Junior Martin Krampelj finished with a career-best 25 points. Bishop added 10 points off the bench.

But as was the case during the 66-59 loss at Villanova, Creighton struggled to get interior touches late. CU leaned on its guards, and its top three perimeter players weren’t able to deliver.

Alexander, sophomore Mitch Ballock and junior Davion Mintz, went a combined 3 of 30 from the field Saturday.

“I hope they don’t doubt themselves because I don’t doubt them,” McDermott said. “They had a rough game, and it happens once in a while.”

Alexander returned to action after missing Wednesday with a knee injury. Sophomore Damien Jefferson (foot) played seven minutes, but is still working back to full strength. Freshman Marcus Zegarowski (hand), sidelined for the second straight game, will be re-evaluated this week.

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