- Associated Press - Saturday, January 23, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Creighton finally found out what it’s like to win a close game.

The Bluejays turned back No. 18 Butler each time the Bulldogs got close and held on for a 72-64 victory Saturday night.

Creighton’s first 13 wins were by 10 points or more, and it has three losses by three points or less.

“We haven’t been in many close games, and when we were, we lost,” coach Greg McDermott said. “This was one where it was close enough at the end that we had to grind it out. The confidence you get from that is huge.”

Maurice Watson scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half, and Creighton (14-6, 5-2 Big East) capitalized on Butler’s cold shooting and foul trouble to win for the first time in 12 games against Top 25 opponents.

Reserve Kelan Martin scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half for the Bulldogs (13-6, 2-5), who dropped to 1-3 in conference road games. Kellen Dunham had 20 points.

The Bulldogs closed to 68-64 on Dunham’s 3-pointer with 18 seconds left, but Isaiah Zierden and James Milliken made free throws to put the game away.

“We wanted to accomplish something defensively these last couple games,” Toby Hegner said. “Props to Butler. Dunham hit a lot of good shots, a lot of tough shots, but we were the tougher team the second half and we got the lead and did what we had to do.”

The Bulldogs shot 30.4 percent while playing without point guard Tyler Lewis, who sustained a concussion in practice Thursday.

Roosevelt Jones, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds, had to run the point and played the last 10:38 with four fouls. Jordan Gathers fouled out early in the second half, and Tyler Wideman and Andrew Chrabascz also had five fouls.

The Bulldogs have dropped five of seven since their 11-1 start.

“You’re in a big-boy league playing big boys every night,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “We’ve got to control what we control. That’s our play and effort and approach every day. We have a great group of guys, guys who are locked in with a great spirit and way about them. If we let this beat us up too much, then we’re not prepared for this league.”

Creighton opened the second half with an 11-0 run, turning a five-point halftime deficit into a 40-34 lead. Butler started the half 0 for 6 with three turnovers before Jones snaked through the lane for a layup.

“That was a critical stretch,” Holtmann said. “They made some plays. We’ve got to open the second half better than what we did.”

The game took another bad turn for Butler when Jones, one of the Big East’s best all-around players, committed his fourth foul with 15:08 left and Maurice Watson made the free throw for a three-point play.

With Jones on the bench, Watson followed with another layup, giving Creighton a 45-37 lead.

The Bulldogs went scoreless on their first eight possessions of the game before Martin made his first 3-pointer, and they were down seven before they started warming up.

SURPRISING CREIGHTON

Picked to finish ninth in the Big East, the Bluejays are within two games of league-leading Villanova near the conference schedule’s halfway point.

“I’m happy where we’re at,” McDermott said. “In this league it’s so fragile because the league is so competitive. You have to stay ready and in the moment. You can’t take a breath.”

TIP-INS

Butler: Gathers, making his second start of the season, fouled out after playing seven minutes. … Holtmann was assessed a technical foul for arguing a foul call with 11:54 left. Zierden made both free throws. … It was Butler’s first loss against a non-Top 25 opponent.

Creighton: Tyler Clement’s 3-pointer in the first half was his first basket since Dec. 21 vs. North Texas. … Entered the game scoring a Big East-leading 83.5 points a game. … Has been .500 or better after 20 games in 20 of the last 21 seasons.

UP NEXT

Butler hosts DePaul on Wednesday.

Creighton visits Georgetown on Tuesday.

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