Whitehead, Carrington lead Seton Hall past Creighton 81-73
NEW YORK (AP) — Just a subway ride from home, Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington weren’t about to let Seton Hall slip up in its first postseason game of this resurgent season.
Whitehead had 24 points and 12 rebounds, Carrington scored a career-best 27 and Seton Hall ran off the final eight points for an 81-73 victory over pesky Creighton in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals Thursday night.
Poised to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 years, the Pirates have won six of seven and 10 of 12. They start five sophomores, three from New York City — including Brooklyn boys Whitehead and Carrington.
“I think all these guys’ will to win is unbelievable. It’s why they are here. It’s why they came as a group. It’s what they’re focused on,” coach Kevin Willard said. “They have a will.”
Carrington put the third-seeded Pirates (23-8) ahead for good with 50 seconds remaining, and Whitehead made several big plays down the stretch before sinking the clinching free throws. Seton Hall will face fifth-ranked and second-seeded Xavier, a 90-72 winner over Marquette, in the semifinals Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
“Zeke (Whitehead) doesn’t like to lose. Sometimes he goes off. There’s moments you look at him and you’re shaking your head. He wants to win,” Willard said. “Khadeen, I mean, that’s all we talk about in huddles. We’ve come a long way. We used to talk about lobsters and cheerleaders. Now we’re talking about what it takes to get a stop. So this is a group that’s, again, I’ve used the word special. I love them. It’s been a blast, man. I’ve had so much fun watching these guys grow. And they’re still puppies.”
Cole Huff had a career-high 35 points for the sixth-seeded Bluejays (18-14), who have lost five of six.
A transfer from Nevada, Huff shot 7 for 11 from 3-point range and grabbed nine rebounds to keep Creighton close. James Milliken added 18 points for the Bluejays, who finished 8 of 24 from beyond the arc.
“I guess if I look back on this years from now when I’m done playing, I’ll say it was pretty cool,” Huff said. “I wanted to get to the NCAA Tournament and play some meaningful basketball. It hurts.”
Carrington scored in the lane to give Seton Hall a 75-73 advantage. Reserve guard Derrick Gordon made a steal at the other end but missed two free throws. Whitehead, however, leaped high for the offensive rebound and was undercut by 7-foot center Geoffrey Groselle, who was whistled for his fifth foul.
Whitehead, a unanimous All-Big East selection, came up holding his tailbone in pain. But he hit both free throws to make it 77-73.
“My back is killing me right now,” Whitehead said after the game, though he made it clear he plans to play against Xavier. “I’ll be ready to go.”
In the waning seconds, the sophomore point guard also blocked a shot and pumped his fist after grabbing the rebound of Huff’s missed 3. He made two more foul shots before Carrington, who waved his arms to urge on the cheering crowd, closed it out with a pair from the line.
“It felt a lot like home,” Carrington said. “We’re right over the bridge.”
Seton Hall, which led by 14 late in the first half, opened a five-point cushion with 2:06 left when Gordon drained a 3 off a pass from Whitehead, firing up the Pirates and their fans.
Groselle scored inside to tie it at 73 with 1:09 to play.
Creighton came back by forcing turnovers during a fast-paced start to the second half. The Bluejays went ahead 52-51 when Seton Hall was called for goaltending on Malik Albert’s fast-break layup, their first lead since 10-8.
“Carrington was the difference,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
Creighton: Huff’s previous career highs were 31 points and six 3s for Nevada at Fresno State in January 2014. The junior forward had 21 points in the regular-season finale at Xavier, his first start since Jan. 12. ... Creighton started two seniors and three juniors. ... Creighton was outscored 12-2 in bench points.
Seton Hall: Whitehead was 5 for 15 from the field but 12 of 15 at the free-throw line. He established a career high for rebounds and added six assists in 38 minutes. ... Carrington made 10 of his 17 shots and went 5 for 9 from 3-point range. ... Seton Hall outrebounded the Bluejays 45-25 and held them to 41.1 percent shooting. Creighton was second in the Big East in field-goal shooting this season at 47 percent. ... Creighton and Seton Hall split two regular-season meetings, each winning on the road by double digits.
TRUE TO FORM
It’s the first time since 2007 the top four seeds in the Big East Tournament have reached the semifinals.
Creighton: Heads home hoping for an at-large bid to the NIT on Sunday.
Seton Hall: Split two games against Xavier this season, with each team winning at home.