NEW YORK (AP) Creighton has struggled in close games all season, so the Bluejays put this one away before it came down to the wire.
James Milliken scored 22 points and Creighton took charge of a tight contest in the second half for a 78-63 victory over DePaul in the first round of the Big East tournament on Wednesday night.
''I thought defensively we had a little more teeth the second half,'' Bluejays coach Greg McDermott said.
Devin Brooks added 12 points and senior guard Austin Chatman had 11, surpassing 1,000 for his career. Will Artino provided energy down low, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds to help the 10th-seeded Bluejays (14-18) advance to the quarterfinals Thursday night against No. 23 Georgetown, the tournament's second seed.
Creighton snapped a three-game skid that included a pair of one-point losses and a four-point defeat against No. 4 Villanova. That was a common theme for the Bluejays, who lost seven Big East matchups after being ahead or tied in the final minute of regulation.
''This is their time,'' McDermott said. ''It's time to do something for themselves.''
Jamee Crockett scored 15 to pace seventh-seeded DePaul (12-20), which lost its final eight games of the season and 11 of the last 12. It was an extremely disappointing finish for a team that opened 3-0 and 5-2 in conference play, including a Jan. 7 win at Creighton.
Billy Garrett Jr. had 10 points and eight assists for the Blue Demons.
''They're down in the locker room, which I would expect them to be,'' coach Oliver Purnell said. ''I know why I want to come back - because I want to continue to rebuild this program. We've made some progress. But at the same time, I'm just like fans; I'm not satisfied. So I want to come back to finish the job. That's the way I feel about it.''
The score was tied at 46 before Artino's putback with 12:45 left started Creighton's decisive 13-2 surge. Toby Hegner hit a 3-pointer and Milliken shook off a hard fall to finish a three-point play that gave the Bluejays a 10-point cushion with 8:21 to go.
Meanwhile, the Blue Demons managed only one field goal in a span of 7:10.
''I thought we were in a good position, but we couldn't sustain it,'' Purnell said. ''We took a couple poor shots in the second half. I thought that deflated us defensively a little bit.''
Creighton shot 54.2 percent (13 for 24) after halftime and committed only five turnovers in all.
The Bluejays led most of the way in a first half that was pretty even on the stat sheet, as both teams shot 12 for 28 (42.9 percent) from the field.
Milliken scored 15 points, including three straight 3s, and Creighton went into the locker room with a 35-33 lead after Chatman dished to Geoffrey Groselle underneath for a layup with a second left.
''We just started with transition points,'' Milliken said. ''I had my teammates looking for me. After I hit the first one, my shot felt pretty good. So I took the next one.''
Creighton: Milliken finished one point shy of his career high, set on Dec. 9 against South Dakota. ... Brooks, playing near his Harlem home, and Chatman both had five assists, five rebounds and no turnovers. ... The teams split two regular-season matchups, each winning on the road by double digits.
DePaul: The Blue Demons have two Big East tournament wins, including 60-56 last year over Georgetown in the first round. ... Tommy Hamilton IV, who sat out the regular-season finale at Marquette because he wasn't feeling well, came off the bench with 15:08 remaining in the first half and quickly hit his first two shots, a 3-pointer from the right corner and a layup while getting fouled. He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. ... Myke Henry had 10 points and nine rebounds.
LONG WAY FROM HOME
Creighton was the tournament runner-up last year in its first Big East season, beating DePaul 84-62 in the quarterfinals. Scores of vocal fans made the long trip from Nebraska and filled Garden seats to see national player of the year Doug McDermott and a ranked Bluejays squad that was headed for a high seed in the NCAAs.
The atmosphere was hardly the same Wednesday, with a scattered crowd of 12,588 attending the first-round doubleheader.
Creighton: The Bluejays lost both meetings with Georgetown in January, by an average of 21 points. ''We've come a long way since then,'' Artino said.
DePaul: Season is over.