Creighton looked like a team that could go on a distance run in the NCAA Tournament, winning 18 of its first 19. Then Maurice Watson Jr. went down with a season-ending knee injury, and the Bluejays began limping.
They were 5-7 without the senior point guard heading into the Big East Tournament.
But Creighton still has some talent in stock.
Khyri Thomas scored 19 points and fellow guard Marcus Foster added 15 to power the sixth-seeded Bluejays to a 70-58 win over third-seeded Providence on Thursday night in the quarterfinals at the Garden. Creighton will face seventh-seeded Xavier on Friday night in the semifinals.
“We’ve had to reinvent ourselves,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
The Bluejays (24-8), who missed 13 free throws, began the second half with a 17-4 burst to grab a 44-34 advantage.
The Friars (20-12), who arrived with a six-game winning streak before committing 22 turnovers and missing 12 free throws, scored the next six. Creighton rebuilt the lead to nine. It got as close as 60-54 with 2:38 remaining. Then the Bluejays went 8-for-12 at the line, swelling the margin to 14.
Said Providence coach Ed Cooley, “We picked a bad time to play our worst game in probably five or six weeks.”