OMAHA, Neb. — Marcus Zegarowski led six men in double-figures as No. 21 Creighton topped St. John’s, 94-82, on Saturday before a season-high crowd of 18,122 fans at CHI Health Center Omaha.
The win moved the Bluejays (18-6, 7-4 BIG EAST) into a tie for second place in the BIG EAST Conference with Villanova as well as the winner of Sunday’s Marquette/Butler game. St. John’s, which was seeking its third top-25 win away from home this winter, dropped to 13-11 (2-9 BIG EAST) with the setback.
St. John’s got a tip-in from Josh Roberts to start the game’s scoring, but would not lead again. Creighton’s lead stretched to 18-8 when Denzel Mahoney drained a three-pointer on his first shot after a scoreless outing at Providence. The Bluejays got a pair of buckets from Christian Bishop, including an alley-oop right before the halftime horn, to take a 47-37 lead into the halftime break.
Marcellus Earlington had three-pointers on each of St. John’s first two possessions of the second half, and the Red Storm would draw within two points on two occasions. Creighton swung the momentum of the game with a five-point possession to go ahead 75-64 with 8:33 to go. Mitch Ballock made a three-pointer and on the play Red Storm standout LJ Figueroa was called for a deadball contact technical foul. Ty-Shon Alexander made both subsequent free throws, and the Johnnies got no closer than eight the rest of the way.
The Bluejays iced the game down the stretch with scores on seven straight possessions to go ahead 91-74 with 3:22 to play.
Earlington poured in career-highs with 25 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Johnnies. Figueroa and Mustapha Heron each added a dozen points for St. John’s, which made 31-of-74 field goal attempts and 11-of-31 three-pointers. The Red Storm won the rebound battle 41-31 and converted 18 offensive rebounds into 18 second chance points. St. John’s had a 49-19 edge in bench points but recorded a season-low one steal.
Zegarowski shook off a 1-for-10 shooting night at Providence with 23 points and seven rebounds to lead CU in both categories. Bishop and Ballock both had 10 points, with Ballock tying his career-high with a game-best eight assists. Alexander added 16, and Mahoney finished with 18 points. Creighton tied its season-high by making 13 three-pointers, as Alexander, Zegarowski, Ballock and Mahoney each made three triples. Creighton had 21 assists on 35 field goals and had just eight turnovers against SJU’s pressure defense.
Creighton returns to action on Wednesday, Feb. 12 with a 5:30 p.m. Central game at No. 12 Seton Hall (18-5, 10-1 BIG EAST). The Pirates own a three-game lead in the BIG EAST standings.