All Creighton had to do was touch the inbounds pass.
Less than a second remained and the Bluejays, leading by three points, were in position to secure a marquee victory — despite a shooting display from Markus Howard and the never-quit resilience of the Golden Eagles.
But Creighton senior Connor Cashaw’s inbounds pass sailed to the opposite end of the floor. He was aiming for Martin Krampelj near half court, but the junior forward misread it and couldn’t chase the ball down before it bounced out of bounds. The turnover gave No. 21 Marquette new life — and the Golden Eagles didn’t waste it.
With 0.8 seconds left, junior Sam Hauser leaped to catch a high-arching inbounds pass, rose up from 25 feet and swished in the tying 3-pointer.
Howard, who set a Creighton opponent record with 53 points, did the rest in overtime for the Golden Eagles (13-3, 2-1 Big East), who earned an improbable 106-104 win in front of 17,085 at the CHI Health Center.
The stunning final sequence to end regulation is what will haunt the Bluejays more than anything. And Creighton coach Greg McDermott said it was his fault.
“We’re up three. There’s eight-tenths of a second left,” he said. “It’s my responsibility to bring that home and I didn’t do it. So, this one’s on me.”
The Jays (10-6, 1-2) even huddled during a timeout to set up their inbounds plan. McDermott said if Cashaw couldn’t find a teammate open underneath the Golden Eagles’ hoop, he was advised to toss it up to Krampelj near the opposite foul line.
Ty-Shon Alexander, who finished with a team-high 23 points, and Davion Mintz, who added 21, collided. Mitch Ballock didn’t get free.
So Cashaw threw the ball toward Krampelj. It bounced twice before landing on the opposite end line.
Since no CU player touched it, Marquette was awarded the ball in the same spot underneath its own basket.
“The game of basketball is a game where if you just keep plugging away, you never know what’s going to happen,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “Our kids kept plugging away. Thank goodness they did.”
Wojciechowski said he couldn’t take credit for what happened next.
Howard, the inbounder, said he locked eyes with Hauser, who was waving his arms as he backpedaled away from defenders. Hauser secured the pass and tied the game with the 3 as the buzzer sounded.
The referees, who watched replays and circled together to discuss the play at length, ruled that the ball left Hauser’s fingertips just before the clock hit zeroes. McDermott said afterward the officials told him their video review was “inconclusive.”
Howard, whose points were also a Big East single-game record, took over from there.
The shifty 5-foot-11 guard was already cooking — nailing step-back 3s and pull-up jumpers and fallaway shots all night. He had a hand in his face for most of those, too.
But Howard heated up even more in overtime. His floater to start the extra period gave the Golden Eagles their first lead of the game. He made three straight 3s on the next three possessions.
And Marquette did enough at the end, twice avoiding a turnover against the Creighton press and making four free throws in the final seconds. The Golden Eagles stormed the court and celebrated once it was all over while the dejected Jays tried to process what just unfolded.
Creighton led by as many as 13 in the first half and went ahead 68-58 with nine minutes left. After Krampejl’s two free throws, CU was in front 85-80 with 8.9 seconds remaining.
But senior Joseph Chartouny’s putback trimmed the deficit to three. Then came the Marquette miracle.
Though in McDermott’s mind, it was all preventable. In his postgame press conference, he repeatedly pointed back to the turnover with 0.8 seconds left in regulation.
“We had the game won,” McDermott said. “We didn’t execute an out-of-bounds play. That’s on me. That’s my fault.
“If your team doesn’t execute that, that’s on the head coach. I really let the guys down.”