No. 14 Creighton beats Butler without suspended McDermott
By ERIC OLSON
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Marcus Zegarowski was right where he wanted to be - on the basketball court - after a difficult week off the floor for Creighton.
In what might have been his last college home game, Zegarowski matched his career high with 32 points to lead the No. 14 Bluejays to a 93-73 victory over Butler on Saturday.
The Bluejays (18-7, 14-6 Big East) won for the first time in three games, doing it without head coach Greg McDermott, who is suspended indefinitely for making racially insensitive remarks to his team following a Feb. 27 loss.
"I always look at basketball as therapy," Zegarowski said, "especially in this situation where something happened and we came together off the floor and had to talk through things, a real sensitive topic. Having basketball going on right now, we have to focus on that.
"I think we have great guys who are talking about what they think of the situation, and then we have a staff that provides a place to speak our piece but also focus on the next step in basketball. Today was a step moving forward for sure."
Assistant coach Alan Huss served as interim head coach against the Bulldogs and watched Creighton score more than 90 points for the sixth time this season. The Bluejays never trailed after the opening four minutes.
"It's awesome just to get out there and think about basketball," Huss said.
Denzel Mahoney scored 15 points, Damien Jefferson added 12 and Christian Bishop had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Chuck Harris had a career-high 29 points to lead the Bulldogs (9-14, 8-12), and Bryce Golden matched his career best with 19.
"Creighton was on tonight," Harris said. "They're a shot-making team, we didn't execute from the jump, and they made us pay for it."
Zegarowski turned in a virtuoso performance. Afterward, the Big East preseason player of the year said he wouldn't consider whether to declare for the NBA draft until well after the NCAA Tournament.
The junior was 10 of 12 from the field, including 5 of 7 on 3-pointers, and he came up with the basket Creighton needed when the game looked as though it would tighten in the first half.
"Just coming out here, playing for our four seniors and trying to just make the best of it and compete for 40 minutes and not worry about what's off the floor," Zegarowski said. "I think that's what we did."
Creighton, which shot 52% and made 12 of 25 3s, was much sharper than in its 73-61 loss at No. 10 Villanova on Wednesday. That game came one day after revelations that McDermott, urging team unity following a loss at Xavier, used language evocative of slavery and the antebellum South when he said, "I need everybody to stay on the plantation. I can't have anybody leave the plantation."
McDermott apologized, coached the Villanova game and was suspended on Thursday. Five Black Creighton players spoke in a video before the Butler game about why McDermott's words hurt them.
"It's a difficult predicament for Coach Huss and their coaching staff to be in," Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. "They deserve credit, and their players took the moment and owned it."
Butler: Tough finish to the regular season for the Bulldogs. They gave up their most points in a regulation game since December 2017, and shot 5 of 26 on 3s (19.2%) for their worst mark of the season.
Creighton: The Bluejays really needed this win heading into the Big East Tournament in New York. They avoided their first three-game losing streak since February 2019.
HUSS TAKING IT DAY BY DAY
Huss said he wasn't sure how long he'll remain interim head coach. He said he and the staff are trying to run things the same way as if McDermott were there.
Huss said he spoke with McDermott shortly after he was named interim coach Thursday.
"He's been really supportive," Huss said. "He wants this team to do well. He's happy for this group."
Creighton's Alex O'Connell was ejected following a confrontation with Myles Tate with 12:23 left. O'Connell was fouled by Tate as he went to the basket, and the two jawed with each other. Each player was given a technical foul, and as they were walking away, O'Connell was given a second technical.
Creighton: Clinched the No. 2 seed in the Big East Tournament and will play Thursday against the first-round winner between No. 7 Xavier and No. 10 Butler.
Butler: Opens the conference tournament against Xavier on Wednesday.
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Updated March 6, 2021