DePaul hangs tough before falling to No. 17 Creighton
The Blue Demons led by a point with a little more than three minutes left, but the Bluejays closed with a 10-2 burst to win the game.
Marcus Zegarowski scored 19 points and No. 17 Creighton beat DePaul 69-62 on Saturday night at Wintrust Arena.
Creighton (13-4, 9-3) came in leading the Big East in scoring and shooting, but the way this one went it was hard to tell.
The cold-shooting Bluejays made just enough baskets to pull out a game that got heated in the first half. They hit all eight of their free throws in a closing 10-2 run and beat the Blue Demons (3-7, 1-7) for the 13th straight time.
“Are we perfect? No, we’re not perfect,” coach Greg McDermott said. “As I look across college basketball outside of maybe Gonzaga, Baylor — Michigan’s played great — there aren’t a lot of teams that are perfect this year. It’s a different year. It’s a hard year. It’s a hard year to grow the way you want to grow.”
Zegarowski nailed three 3-pointers. Christian Bishop and Denzel Mahoney each scored 14 points, and Ryan Kalkbrenner added 12. The Bluejays won their third straight even though they shot just 41% — including 6 of 22 on 3s.
DePaul held leading scorer Charlie Moore out of the game after he hurt his right elbow in a loss to St. John’s on Wednesday night. Even so, the Blue Demons just missed beating a ranked team for the first time since they knocked off then-No. 5 Butler on Jan. 18, 2020.
Ray Salnave scored a season-high 21 points for DePaul. Javon Freeman-Liberty added 13 points and eight rebounds.
“We’ve been waiting for Ray to not just play like he did today, but to bring his skill level and have it match his bravado, his intensity, his intelligence and his voice — all the things that he does really, really well,” coach Dave Leitao said. “I’ve felt bad for him and for us because he hadn’t shot the ball very well and it was affecting his confidence.”
Creighton rallied from 16 down in the second half and closed with a 14-2 surge to win at Seton Hall on Wednesday. Another late run lifted the Bluejays in this one.
They trailed 60-59 after Salnave nailed a 3 with 3:16 remaining. Mahoney and Zegarowski each made a pair of free throws for Creighton, and Damien Jefferson scored on a layup to make it 65-60.
After Salnave cut it to three with a driving layup in the closing minute, Mahoney and Zegarowski each made two more free throws.
“I didn’t like what I saw for a while,” McDermott said. “We just didn’t have the energy and the zip that I’ve become accustomed to with this group. We got ourselves out of it, finally.”
The teams headed to the locker room tied at 29 after a heated first half.
Creighton led 21-10 with about six minutes remaining when Mahoney got stripped by Freeman-Liberty. The Blue Demons’ guard got knocked to the floor as he sped toward the rim, resulting in a flagrant foul for Mahoney and two free throws.
Not long after that, Jefferson blocked Romeo Weems and picked up a technical for unsportsmanlike conduct. That led to two free throws for Freeman-Liberty.
Tempers continued to flare, with Weems knocking Bishop to the floor and getting called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Mitch Ballock hit one of two free throws and Bishop converted two to make it 24-18 with 4:05 left.
DePaul tied it at 27 with just under two minutes left on back-to-back baskets by Salnave. Bishop dunked before Salnave hit a tying pull-up jumper with 30 seconds left.
Creighton: The Bluejays hardly looked like a Top 25 team at times. But they’ll take the ugly win. “You know you’ve got to lock in the next time you go to practice and say, ‘Even though we won, we’ve got to be mature enough to watch the film and fix what we did wrong in that game,’” Kalkbrenner said.
DePaul: The Blue Demons were able to keep it close. But it was a familiar result for them.
Creighton: The Bluejays will try to keep their streak going when they host Georgetown on Wednesday.
DePaul: The Blue Demons host Xavier on Wednesday.