OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Marcus Zegarowski was so dizzy before the game that he was held out of the starting lineup for the first time this season.
Ty-Shon Alexander hurt his knee late in the first half and was so stiff that he could barely move.
The two ended up making the biggest shots of the game to rally No. 25 Creighton in a 78-74 victory over Providence on Saturday.
Zegarowski hit the tie-breaking 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left after Alexander's 3 and bank-in brought the Bluejays back from a five-point deficit in the last 90 seconds.
“Those plays by Ty-Shon, you can look at the last shot I hit, but it’s a lot tougher when you’re down,” Zegarowski said. “It’s a little different when it’s a tie game. So that last play, I give a lot of credit to Ty-Shon. He put us in position to have a tie game.”
Alexander had 24 points to lead the Bluejays (14-5, 3-3 Big East), who had to overcome David Duke's career-high 36-point performance for the Friars (11-8, 4-2).
Alexander got tangled with the Friars' Alpha Diallo as Diallo drove to the basket late in the first half. Alexander had the knee stretched, and he was back on the floor to start the second half. He wasn't able to move well, especially on defense, but the Bluejays needed him for his offense.
“I basically had to play through it,” Alexander said. “Our team needed this win. It was more important for my team and for my coach to get this win than for me to just sit out and complain about a knee injury."
Duke scored at will in the second half, and the Friars were up five and on the verge of pulling away when Alexander went to work. He hit a deep 3 and then his bank-in from the baseline tied it with 36 seconds left.
Creighton got the ball back on the alternating possession when Duke lost control of the ball in the lane and Denzel Mahoney grabbed it to force a tie-up. Zegarowski took the inbounds pass, brought it upcourt and then suddenly stopped and launched a deep 3 from above the key for his only basket of the second half.
After it went in, he ran to the other end of the court with teammates chasing him. Alexander was the first to greet him.
Alexander intercepted the inbounds pass, got fouled and made a free throw to finish off the Friars.
“Really proud of Marcus to have the toughness to play when most guys would be in bed,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
Zegarowski became dizzy during pregame warmups and went to the locker room. He entered the game at the first break and finished with eight points and a season-high six turnovers.
“Before the game it hit me real quick,” he said. “Something I hadn’t experienced. I just got real dizzy. I was having trouble moving a little bit. Our staff did a great job helping me feel a lot better. I think I was dehydrated. Toward game time I felt a lot better. I’ll always try to suit up.”
Providence: The Friars came in winning five of six games. Now they've begun a stretch of five straight games against opponents currently ranked in the Top 25.
Creighton: This was a gut-check win for the Bluejays, who had lost three of their last four and were less than 100% with Zegarowski playing with illness and Alexander having banged up his left knee.
HE COULDN'T MISS
Duke broke loose for his 36 points after scoring just seven against St. John's in his previous game. The sophomore guard scored the Friars' last 15 points.
“That kid deserves it,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “David is the hardest-working player I’ve ever coached. He’s in the gym morning, noon and night, and I’m happy for him that it’s paying off.”
Providence hosts St. John's on Wednesday.
Creighton visits DePaul on Wednesday.