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HOW THE FRIARS WON: Creighton boasts the nation's most efficient offense, but you wouldn't know it by watching Saturday night's Big East championship game.

Especially not the first half. The Bluejays struggled out of the gate, shooting a miserable 1-for-12 from beyond the arc in the first half and posting a season-low 17 points against an extremely effective Providence zone. Doug McDermott, the national player of the year frontrunner who leads the country in scoring at nearly 27 points a game, was held to nine before halftime.

Creighton remained stymied and frustrated for much of the second half but attempted a frantic comeback in the game's final minutes. Unsurprisingly, it was McDermott who put on a show, draining a pair of threes from NBA range to pull Creighton within three points, then within two points with 1:20 to play. But that was as close as the Bluejays would get, as Providence's LaDontae Henton answered that shot with a jumper of his own and the Friars closed out the 65-58 victory by making free throws in front of a raucous crowd reminiscent of Big East tournaments past.

BOX SCORE: Providence 65, Creighton 58

BRACKETOLOGY: Projecting the field of 68

After the game, Creighton coach Greg McDermott credited the Friars for their approach and effective way of shutting his Bluejays down. Because they missed shots early, Providence kept relying on the zone, he said.

Providence players credited the coaching staff for having the faith play a zone against a great three-point shooting team.

"We wanted to make sure we controlled the tempo," Bryce Cotton said. "We wanted to always know where McDermott and (three-point specialist Ethan) Wragge were."

In the span of a week, Providence went from being on the bubble to locking up a spot in the NCAA tournament.

STAR WATCH: Each team has a bona-fide star, but considering all the history he's making and the names he keeps passing on the all-time scoring list, McDermott is the one we'll start with. McDermott was not as prolific as we're used to seeing him — and was not as productive as he's been here at the Garden all week — but he still managed to score 27 points and give Creighton all he had in the game's final minutes, willing himself and his teammates during the comeback they almost pulled off.

CELEBRATION: Providence players are dancing

On the other sideline, Providence's Cotton was simply sensational Saturday. He scored 23 points on 8-for-18 shooting and was named the Big East tournament's most outstanding player. Coach Ed Cooley has had nothing but compliments for his star guard throughout the season, and it's no secret why. (Kudos to Cooley for a heck of a coaching job he's done this year, as well.)

WHAT THIS MEANS IN A NUTSHELL: The game was billed as a duel between new and old Big East members, and it surely felt a bit strange to see Providence-Creighton as the Big East tournament championship matchup. But in reality, it was more a game between a bubble team and a squad whose only question on Selection Sunday will about seeding (which will be around the No. 3 seed line). Thanks to their run at the Garden this week, the Friars were likely sitting pretty on the right side of the bubble — but they knew, too, that a win Saturday night would secure the league's auto-bid and also give them a chance to skip Dayton. And they played like a desperate team would, which will allow them to sleep well tonight and enjoy Selection Sunday without any of the nail-biting that typically comes along with a borderline squad.

Despite the loss, Creighton's inaugural season in the Big East was a big success. The Bluejays finished second in the league in the regular season and runners-up in the championship game, no small feat for a team making the jump up from the Missouri Valley Conference. Though Saturday's loss will surely sting — and this Creighton program isn't used to losing title games — this won't be the last we'll see of McDermott and co.

"I think there was a whole city (New York) that didn't know a lot about Creighton, that knows a lot about Creighton now," Greg McDermott said.

TWEET THAT SPEAKS VOLUMES: From the bubble to an automatic bid for the Friars.

AND-1: Creighton scored just 17 points in the first half. The Bluejays' previous first-half low was 24, against George Washington in November.​

HIGHLIGHTS FROM CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

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