NEW YORK (AP) - In a magnificent game of 3-ball, Marcus Foster and Creighton got the 22nd and final one and a trip to the championship game of the Big East Tournament.
Foster hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 8 seconds to play and the sixth-seeded Bluejays (25-8) defeated Xavier 75-72 on Friday night to advance to a title showdown with second-ranked Villanova.
The Wildcats (30-3) edged Seton Hall 55-53 on a late 3-point play - not a 3-pointer- by conference player of the year Josh Hart.
“Terrific win for us,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “We’ve been in this league four years. This will be the second trip to the championship game, which is a credit to the people in the locker room, staff and players. We’ve been through a lot the last five or six weeks and for us to be sitting on the stage getting ready to play tomorrow night is a credit to the character of the people I have in that locker room.”
The Bluejays have overcome the loss point guard Maurice Watson Jr. to a knee injury in January and a late season swoon to get within a win of their first Big East title.
Villanova won both regular season meetings.
Getting to this point was not easy.
Creighton had to watch hot shooting P.J. Macura’s game-tying attempt from 25-or-so feet hit off the front rim before it could celebrate its second trip to the title game in four years. They lost to Providence in 2014.
Foster’s game winner came just eight seconds after Trevon Bluiett had tied the game with a 3-pointer.
After the shot went through the net, Foster glanced at his bench.
“I stood by coach Mac (McDermott) to hear what he was thinking, if we were going to call a timeout or what and he said ‘let’s just play,’” Foster said. “And by then I got into my routine of how I usually play and just took a big shot for my team.”
Foster took a pass just over halfcourt, dribbled and let his shot from from in front of his bench. It was perfect.
“It’s tough,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said of Creighton’s 3-point barrage. “That’s the thing I really appreciate about my guys is they didn’t hang their head. They didn’t cave.”
Foster and Justin Patton each had 21 points for Creighton, which hit 13 of 20 from long range, including seven straight in one stretch bridging the first and second halves.
Macura had 22 points, including six 3-pointers for seventh-seeded Xavier (21-13). Trevon Bluiett added 18 and Quentin Goodin had 11.
Mack believes his team has earned an NCAA berth.
“Yeah, I don’t think there’s any doubt,” he said “It’s hard to say I’m happy after we lose. We came here with different intentions. But so did nine other teams. So we gave it what we could.”
Creighton won the game with its shooting, hitting 18 of 25 shots in the second half, including 7 of 9 from long range, to overcome a six-point halftime deficit.
The Bluejays hit 10 of their first 11 shots after intermission in turning a 37-31 deficit into a 55-50 lead.
Xavier, which was playing its third game in as many days, just wouldn’t go away, at least Macura would not let them.
Trailing 60-54 with 7:51 to play after a 3-point play by Creighton’s Isaiah Zierden, Macura made three 3-pointers in an 11-4 spurt that put the Musketeers ahead 65-64 with 4:16 to play.
Tyler Clement answered with a 3-pointer - his only basket of the game - to put Creighton ahead 67-65 but Malcolm Bernard made two free throws with 3:06 to play to tie the game.
Foster hit a 3-pointer with 2:15 to go to put Creighton ahead 70-67. Bluiett cut the margin to a point with a jumper with 1:46 to go before Patton tapped in a rebound to restore the three-point lead with 1:21 to play.
Xavier: The Musketeers had No. 1 fan Bill Murray behind the bench cheering them on the whole way. His son, Luke, is an assistant coach for the Musketeers, who were looking for the second trip to the tournament title game in three years.
Creighton: The Bluejays had lost four of six games coming into the tournament, but they now are back on track, especially from long range, where they were one of the nation’s top shooting teams all season.
Creighton faces top-seeded Villanova Saturday for the title.
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