- Associated Press - Sunday, January 19, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Doug McDermott had another solid night for Creighton. Bryce Cotton just got a little more help from his Providence teammates.

Cotton and the Friars were in a groove all night, jumping out to a 20-point lead in the second half and never looking back en route to posting an 81-68 victory over 20th-ranked Creighton Saturday night.

The game was a matchup between the two top scorers in the Big East in McDermott and Cotton, though the difference was that the Friars received contributions up and down the lineup while McDermott was forced to shoulder a heavy load all while dealing with a stomach bug.

McDermott led the Bluejays (15-3, 5-1) with 21 points and seven rebounds. The only other Creighton player in double figures was Devin Brooks, who had 10 points.

“I’ve been sick for a little bit, but that’s not an excuse,” McDermott said. “I’ve played through sickness before. It wasn’t our best as a group.”

Eight NBA teams sent scouts to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center to get an up-close look at McDermott, but they all probably ended up taking quite a few notes on Cotton, who scored 23 points.

The victory was the third straight Big East victory for the Friars (13-5, 3-2). They defeated a nationally ranked team for the first time since defeating No. 21 Notre Dame on Feb. 16, 2013.

Cotton, the second-best scorer in the league, collected 23 points in 40 minutes while handing out six assists. The Providence senior leads the Big East in assists (5.8).

“Everyone keeps asking me, ‘When is Bryce going to come out of the game?’ The reply is never,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said. “When he graduates, he’ll come out of the game.”

Providence led 37-30 at halftime despite two players picking up three fouls piece in the first half. The Friars then opened the second half on an 18-5 run that put the Bluejays in a 55-35 hole with 13:51 left, helped by LaDontae Henton, who scored 12 of his 19 points after halftime.

“I was choosing my spots where my teammates would give me the ball,” said Henton, who helped Providence win the rebounding battle 33-27 with six boards.

“We didn’t get in the fight on the backboards like we have to,” Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said.

The Friars lead the all-time series 6-4, but this was the first meeting between the new conference rivals since Nov. 25, 2000.

Providence led from the opening tip and never allowed Creighton to feel comfortable. The Friars hit four of their first six shots to open up an 11-5 lead. The Bluejays regrouped to move within 22-21 after a basket by Austin Chatman, but the Friars closed out the half strong to take a seven-point lead into intermission.

Two Friars starters, Tyler Harris and Josh Fortune, ended the first half with two fouls. The Bluejays had their own foul issues as McDermott was whistled for his second personal with 4:07 left.

“It was frustrating,” McDermott said. “You try to play hard out there, but I got a little too carried away. Overall, we just weren’t ourselves.”

Lee Goldsbrough, a Friars reserve who ended up going scoreless in six minutes, was the player who played a hand in McDermott picking up his second foul.

“He’s the cog to them. Everything runs through him,” Cooley said. “That’s a great basketball team that’s going to win a lot of games.”

The Friars led by as many as 20 points and appeared to be in complete command before McDermott and the Bluejays mounted a surge that brought them to within nine at 73-64 with 1:35 left. Free throws by Cotton and Harris helped push the lead back up to double figures as Providence defeated a Top 25 opponent for the first time in three tries this season.

Even the Providence reserves chipped in. Seven-footer Carson Desrosiers had three blocks in 23 minutes, while walk-on Ted Bancroft was pressed into duty after several regulars got into foul trouble.

“Something like this something definitely gives you confidence,” Cooley said, “especially when you beat a ranked team that has one of the top college players.”

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