Creighton halts No. 1 UConn’s 14-game win streak

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By jeenmediaa

OMAHA, Neb. — Creighton went into its game against UConn having lost all six of its previous meetings with No. 1-ranked teams and never coming closer than 10 points.

The No. 15 Bluejays finally broke through on their seventh try, building a double-digit lead in the first half and knocking off the Huskies 85-66 Tuesday night.

“It’s a historic game for our program,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “I told the team in the locker room, it’s really a culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people over a long period of time to give these guys the opportunity to wear this uniform and play in front of the crowd we were able to play in front of tonight.

“We played a really good game and we beat an incredible team, a team that has a legitimate chance to win a national championship. But we’re pretty good as well.”

Creighton (20-7, 10-6 Big East) led by 23 points with 10 minutes left but saw its lead cut to 10 before holding the defending national champions scoreless on five straight possessions, rebuilding its cushion and prompting students to leave their seats to prepare to storm the court — which they did as soon as the buzzer sounded.

UConn (24-3, 14-2) had its 14-game win streak — which had been the longest active streak in Division I — end three days after it beat then-No. 4 Marquette by 28 points for one of the most impressive victories of the season — and one day after it was voted as the first unanimous No. 1 this season in the AP poll.

“It kind of felt like we just ran into a buzz saw there,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said.

Steven Ashworth scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half, Trey Alexander finished with 16 points and Ryan Kalkbrenner added 15. The Bluejays made 14 of 28 3-pointers in their second-best shooting night from beyond the arc this season. Creighton was just 6-of-26 on 3s in its 62-48 loss at UConn last month.

“When I watched that Marquette-UConn game, I’ve got to admit I wasn’t feeling warm and fuzzy about our chances,” McDermott said.

Conditions seemed right for the Bluejays. They came into the game off a pair of 22-point wins and on a three-game win streak, McDermott said his team’s offensive flow has been as good as it’s been all season, and a rowdy sellout crowd was on hand.

The Huskies were playing their third game in seven days, and Hurley said his players’ body language wasn’t good in team huddles once the Bluejays took the lead and built on it.

“I do think we did a bad job coaching tonight, our players did a bad job playing, I did a bad job coaching,” Hurley said. “Your huddles aren’t going to be super energized when you haven’t lost in two-plus months. … We were definitely stunned. This wasn’t the game we expected, we knew this was a dangerous game and a quality opponent and one of the better teams in the country. But we didn’t expect this to happen.”

It was the Huskies’ 19th straight road loss to a ranked opponent, their last such win coming at No. 19 Memphis on March 13, 2014.

UConn’s Tristen Newton scored 17 of his 27 points in the second half, including 10 during the 18-5 spurt that helped pull the Huskies within 74-64.

The Huskies made a season-low three 3-pointers on 16 attempts in their most lopsided loss since Houston beat them 84-45 in the AAC tournament on March 15, 2019. They had come into the game off a Big East-record three straight wins by at least 25 points.

The Bluejays made just two of their first nine shots, trailed by eight points early and had leading scorer Baylor Scheierman on the bench for eight minutes in the first half after he picked up two fouls. Scheierman finished with 12 points.

“Even when we got off to that bad start I didn’t see any fear, no concern in our faces, we just continued to play,” McDermott said.

The Huskies had problems of their own. Donovan Clingan, their 7-foot-2, 280-pound center, was called for two quick fouls and played just 11 minutes in the half, and UConn went through a 2-for-10 spell while Creighton was finding its rhythm.

A few big shots from reserves Francisco Farabello and Jasen Green sparked an 18-2 run. Farabello made two straight 3s and Green hit one from the corner to wipe out the Huskies’ lead.

Then Ashworth struck from over 30 feet to begin a personal run of 13 straight points for the Bluejays, who made 14 of their last 19 shots of the half and went to the locker room with a 43-29 lead.

“When you’re in your home gym, there’s a feeling of confidence, and the fans were a huge part of that,” Ashworth said. “Definitely a home-court advantage, and in that first half we got on a little bit of a heater.”

Creighton entered Tuesday boasting three of the top six leading scorers in the Big East — Scheierman, Alexander and Kalkbrenner — but it was Ashworth who went off against the No. 1 team in the country, his 20 points almost doubling his season average of 10.6.

The Bluejays — who have now beaten a top-10 team in nine straight years and clinched a 20-win season for the ninth year in a row — also gave McDermott his 600th career win in remarkable fashion.

“First of all, I’m old, you’ve got to be in it a long time to coach enough games to do that, and I’ve coached at some good places, had some really good players play for me,” McDermott said of reaching the milestone. “This is one I’ll never forget because of how it transpired and how good the team was we were playing. One of the best crowds we’ve ever had here, but as I said earlier, there’s a lot of guys that have played for me here that have put us in a position to win a lot of games, because they sacrifice.

“Not everybody wants to play the game the way that we play it, unselfish and selfless, but we’ve got a group here that’s pretty bought into that.”

ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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