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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    No. 1 UConn falls to No. 15 Creighton 85-66

    Creighton's Ryan Kalkbrenner, left, drives against UConn's Samson Johnson during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

    Omaha, Neb. — Creighton went into its game against UConn having lost all six of its previous meetings with No. 1-ranked teams and never coming closer than 10 points.

    The No. 15 Bluejays finally broke through on their seventh try, building a double-digit lead in the first half and knocking off the Huskies 85-66 Tuesday night.

    "We played a really good game and we beat an incredible team, a team that has a legitimate chance to win a national championship," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "But we're pretty good as well."

    Creighton (20-7, 10-6 Big East) led by 23 points with 10 minutes left but saw its lead cut to 10 before holding the defending national champions scoreless on five straight possessions, rebuilding their cushion and prompting students to leave their seats to prepare to storm the court — which they did as soon as the buzzer sounded.

    UConn (24-3, 14-2) had its 14-game win streak end three days after it beat then-No. 4 Marquette by 28 points for one of the most impressive victories of the season — and one day after it was voted as the first unanimous No. 1 this season in the AP poll.

    "It kind of felt like we just ran into a buzz saw there," UConn coach Danny Hurley said.

    Steven Ashworth scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half, Trey Alexander finished with 16 points and Ryan Kalkbrenner added 15. The Bluejays made 14 of 28 3-pointers in their second-best shooting night from beyond the arc this season. Creighton was just 6 of 26 on 3s in its 62-48 loss at UConn last month.

    "When I watched that Marquette-UConn game, I've got to admit I wasn't feeling warm and fuzzy about our chances," McDermott said.

    Conditions seemed right for the Bluejays. They came into the game off a pair of 22-point wins and on a three-game win streak, McDermott said his team's offensive flow has been as good as it's been all season, and a rowdy sellout crowd was on hand.

    The Huskies were playing their third game in seven days, and Hurley said his players' body language wasn't good in team huddles once the Bluejays took the lead and built on it.

    "We've had a great run, but it just kind of felt like today we ran into them playing great and us not playing as well as we need to here in Omaha," Hurley said. "We were definitely stunned. We knew this was a dangerous game. One of the better teams in the country. But we didn't expect this to happen."

    UConn's Tristen Newton scored 17 of his 27 points in the second half, including 10 during the 18-5 spurt that helped pull the Huskies within 74-64.

    The Huskies made a season-low three 3s on 16 attempts in their most lopsided loss since Houston beat them 84-45 in the American Athletic Conference Tournament on March 15, 2019. They had come into the game off a Big East-record three straight wins by at least 25 points.

    The Bluejays made just two of their first nine shots, trailed by eight points early and had leading scorer Baylor Scheierman on the bench for eight minutes in the first half after he picked up two fouls. Scheierman finished with 12 points.

    The Huskies had problems of their own. Donovan Clingan, their 7-foot-2, 280-pound center, was called for two quick fouls and played just 11 minutes in the half, and UConn went through a 2-for-10 spell while Creighton was finding its rhythm.

    A few big shots from reserves Francisco Farabello and Jasen Green sparked an 18-2 run. Farabello made two straight 3s and Green hit one from the corner to wipe out the Huskies' lead.

    Then Ashworth struck from over 30 feet to begin a personal run of 13 straight points for the Bluejays, who made 14 of their last 19 shots of the half and went to the locker room with a 43-29 lead.

    "When you're in your home gym, there's a feeling of confidence, and the fans were a huge part of that," Ashworth said. "Definitely a home-court advantage, and in that first half we got on a little bit of a heater."

    Notes

    UConn: The Huskies have lost 21 in a row on the road against Top 25 opponents. They haven't beaten a ranked team as a visitor since Jan. 16, 2014 at Memphis.

    Creighton: The Bluejays gave McDermott his 600th career win and have beaten a top-10 team in nine straight years. They also clinched a 20-win season for the ninth year in a row.

    Up next

    UConn: Hosts Villanova on Saturday.

    Creighton: Visits St. John's on Sunday.

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