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Khyri Thomas scores 19 to lead Creighton over Providence

(MGN)

Creighton learned how to win after losing point guard Maurice Watson Jr. to a major knee injury in January and it took another step in the postseason, winning with leading scorer Marcus Foster on the bench in foul trouble.

Khyri Thomas scored 19 points and Creighton went on a game-changing 13-2 spurt with Foster reduced to an early second-half cheerleader in posting a 70-58 victory over turnover-plagued Providence in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament Thursday night.

"We had to balance a lot of foul trouble and while Marcus was in foul trouble, he was our best cheerleader over there on the bench, talking to guys at every time out and never became unengaged in the game while he was sitting on the bench with foul trouble," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "And that's the sign of a pretty mature player."

The win was only the second in the last five games for the sixth-seeded Bluejays (24-8), and it set up a semifinal matchup against seventh-seeded Xavier (21-12), which knocked off second-seeded Butler in the opener of the nightcap doubleheader at Madison Square Garden.

Second-ranked and top-seeded Villanova will play Seton Hall in the other semifinal of the tournament that lost its second, third and fourth seeds (Butler, Providence (20-12) and Marquette) on Thursday.

It's fairly obvious that Villanova, the defending national champion, is the best team in the conference and DePaul is at the bottom of the 10-team league.

"You could take the other eight and put us all in a hat and pick us out any night," McDermott said. "There's not much difference and any given night anything could happen. I think that's what you've seen happen in the league over the course since those two injuries have taken place. But there's great basketball in this league and I think that's going to be evident when Selection Sunday rolls around."

Some experts think that seven of 10 teams in the conference will be selected to play in the NCAA Tournament.

Foster finished with 15 points but he was only on the floor for one point in the game-deciding run. Cole Huff added 10 points and freshman of the year Justin Patton had nine points and eight rebounds.

Kyron Cartwright had 15 points to lead Providence, which committed 15 of its 22 turnovers in the second half.

"I thought we were lackadaisical," Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "We just didn't play well. We picked a bad time to play our worst game in probably five or six weeks."

Trailing 30-27 entering the second half, Creighton took control after Foster picked up his third foul less than two minutes into the half.

Davion Mintz had hit a free throw to cut the lead to two points but the run came with Foster watching. Thomas, the conference's defensive player of the year, tied the game with two free throws and Huff then gave the Bluejays the lead with a 3-pointer.

A foul-line jumper by Thomas and a big dunk by Patton pushed the lead to 37-30.

After Cartwright hit a layup, Patton made a free throw and Mintz hit a jumper for Creighton, which made four of its first five shots in the half. Providence never got closer than four the rest of the way.

"I think a lot of them were mental mistakes, they really were," Cooley said of the turnovers. "For whatever reason it happens. You get games that -- normally games like that in November and December. But come March you've got to try to play as clean as you can and we just didn't play clean."

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: After struggling down the stretch, the Bluejays showed why they are one of the nation's top teams. Don't forget this team was ranked all but two weeks this season.

Providence: The Friars had their six-game winning streak snapped but they have the talent to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, especially if Bullock plays better and they hold onto the ball.

UP NEXT

Creighton: Will face No. 7 seed Xavier in Friday's semifinals.

Providence: Will face television Sunday to find out where it will be playing in the NCAA tournament.

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