PROVO — Fueled by double-digit performances from five Cougars, No. 2 seed BYU topped No. 4 seed Creighton 88-82 in the quarterfinals of the NIT on Tuesday to advance to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
“We came out pretty stagnant,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said, “They came out and made some good shots. We found rhythm later in the first half and in the second. Zac [Seljaas] had a great game, and we discovered Kyle could run the floor at point for us, so that gave us a lot of confidence for the second half. We played a lot better in the second half.”
BYU (26-10) finished the game shooting 50.9 percent from the field to Creighton’s (20-15) 44.8 percent. The Cougars brought down 39 rebounds, while the Bluejays grabbed 37. Both teams made eight 3-point field goals.
Zac Seljaas led BYU with 19 points while hitting 5 of 6 from 3. He also added a team-high seven rebounds, two steals and one assist. Kyle Davis added 18 points, three rebounds and one assist. Nick Emery had 18 points, going 7 of 7 from the free-throw line, and a team-high five assists. Chase Fischer had 15 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals, and Kyle Collinsworth scored 10 points. He also tallied five rebounds and four assists.
“I think we were just trying to find our groove without Kyle out there and running the offense a little bit differently,” Davis said. “They’re a good defensive team, but once we started getting stops and playing our game, we were rolling.”
The Bluejays found the bottom of the net first at the 18-minute mark to take the early 3-0 lead. On the next possession, Creighton’s Maurice Watson Jr. hit a 3-point field goal as the shot clock expired. Corbin Kaufusi then put BYU on the board as he converted a 3-point play to make the score 6-3.
At the 14:41 mark, the Bluejays extended their lead to six, 11-5, on a 3-pointer, the team’s third of the game. Battling the flu, Collinsworth came off the bench and found his first two points of the game with 13 minutes to go in the half. Collinsworth’s bucket put the Cougars within four, 15-11.
Down six, the Cougars found Collinsworth in the paint for a layup to make the score 19-15. Creighton then when on a 6-0 run to take the 25-15 lead, forcing a Cougar timeout.
“I think what’s fun for me as a coach and our whole staff about tonight is how Kyle has picked this team up so many times throughout this season and throughout his career. Tonight, these other guys picked him up tonight and helped him through to another game,” Rose said. “It says a lot about the group, the camaraderie and the chemistry of this team.”
With 7:14 to go in the half, Davis was fouled on a floater and finished it. He made the free throw to put the Cougars within eight, 29-21. On the next Cougar possession, Davis went back to the foul line and sank both free throws to make the score 29-23.
Seljaas kept the Cougars within six, 34-28, as he sank a 3-pointer at the 3:27 mark, his second of the game. Out of the timeout, Seljaas hit his third trey of the contest to bring BYU within three, 34-31, with two minutes to go in the half.
After two Creighton foul shots, Davis converted yet another 3-point play to put the Cougars within two, 36-34. On the next Bluejay possession, Seljaas stole the ball and got fouled. Sinking the pair, he tied the game at 36-all with 65 second to go in the first 20 minutes of play. A Davis dunk gave the Cougars the lead and BYU took the 38-37 lead into halftime as Creighton went 2 of 11 from the field to finish the half.
Seljaas and Davis led the Cougars in points in the first 20 minutes of play, scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively. Emery pulled down a game-high five rebounds.
Creighton opened the half with two made free throws by Geoffrey Groselle to take the 39-38 lead. Collinsworth gave BYU the three-point lead, 42-39, as he finished in the lane at the 18:21 mark. Davis extended that lead to five, 50-45, as he tipped in a Collinsworth miss.
At the 13:35 mark, Emery increased BYU’s lead to seven, 55-47, the largest BYU lead of the game to that point. Seljaas then gave the Cougars a 10-point lead, 61-51, as he converted his fourth 3-point field goal of the night.
With just under 10 minutes to go, Seljaas and Emery hit back-to-back treys to give BYU the 15-point advantage, 67-52, the team’s largest of the night.
With 4:07 to go, Fischer helped the Cougars keep the double-digit 74-61 lead hitting his first trey of the contest.
At the two-minute mark, after the Bluejays threw on a full-court press, Creighton pulled within seven, 74-67. BYU pulled ahead taking the 11-point, 79-68, lead as Emery buried a pair of free throws. With 1:02 to go, Fischer sank two more foul shots to give BYU the 81-71 lead. The Cougars shot 22 of 29 from the line for the game.
Creighton cut the lead down to five, 82-77, with 27 second to go. The Bluejays then fouled Emery with 25.8 seconds to play. Emery put the Cougars up seven, 84-77, sinking both free throws. With seven seconds left in the game, Seljaas hit two free throws to give BYU the nine-point 88-79 lead.
With the win, the Cougars advance to the semifinals of the NIT. BYU will play Valparaiso at Madison Square Garden on Mar. 29.
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