- Associated Press - Sunday, March 16, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Bryce Cotton was No. 2 to Doug McDermott in the Big East all season. He’s No. 1 now.

The senior guard scored 23 points and Providence won its first Big East tournament title since 1994 with a great defensive effort against McDermott and No. 14 Creighton in a 65-58 victory Saturday night.

The fourth-seeded Friars (23-11) used a 2-3 zone to hold the second-seeded Bluejays (26-7) 24 points below their season average and to an 8-for-30 effort from behind the 3-point line.

Cotton, who finished second to McDermott in the conference scoring but was also a unanimous first-team All-Big East selection, was the scoring star in the championship game and he was selected the tournament MVP.

“Unbelievable. He’s been like that the whole year and he saved his best for last on one of the greatest stages ever,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said of Cotton. “He was fantastic.”

Cotton had a net draped around his neck and a smile on his face as he talked after the game.

“It’s just a vindicating feeling to know that the Providence Friars are Big East champions,” he said. “This is something our school and our city hasn’t seen in a long time. For us to finally bring that back home, it’s top of the list.

“This has been years and years of blood, sweat, tears and praying.”

McDermott, who came in leading the nation in scoring with 26.5 average, finished 10 for 19 from the field, including 5 of 12 from 3-point range, for 27 points. He shined in his first two Big East tournament games, getting 35 in the quarterfinals against DePaul and 32 in the semifinal win over Xavier.

He had nine points at halftime as Providence held the Bluejays to a season-low 17 points in taking a nine-point lead.

“Got to give them credit. They’re physical,” McDermott said. “But I think we handled ourselves pretty well all the way throughout league play on the physicality, and I think that’s really going to help us going into the (NCAA) tournament.”

Providence was considered on the bubble coming into the game for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. That’s a moot question now as the Friars won the Big East’s automatic bid.

“We’re just going to cherish this moment for the time being,” Cotton said. “We’ll regroup when it’s time.”

The Friars led by 12 points twice in the second half, the last time at 45-33 on a jumper by Kadeem Batts with 12:47 left.

The Bluejays got as close as 58-56 on McDermott’s fifth and final 3 with 1:18 to play.

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