Providence-Creighton Preview

Providence's worst offensive game of the season narrowly ended an eight-game winning streak and cost it a spot in the top 10, but its coach isn't stressing and his team hasn't had much of a problem with its next opponent.

The 12th-ranked Friars shift their attention to Tuesday night's visit to Creighton, which is already in position to match its Big East win total from a season ago.

Providence (14-2, 2-1) fell 65-64 at home to Marquette last Tuesday with standout guard Kris Dunn unable to get a shot off at the buzzer. Coach Ed Cooley classified it as one might expect of an early-January letdown.

"It's not the end of the world," Cooley said. "It's a game. It's our 16th game. I'm not going to be down. I'm going to continue to motivate this group to be the best that we can absolutely be."

Dunn continued to perform with a third straight game of at least 20 points, shooting 51.2 percent while hitting 9 of 15 from 3-point range in that span.

Those numbers, however, have been secondary lately. Ben Bentil scored 28 on 9-of-17 shooting and is averaging 24.8 on 56.9 percent in his last four after entering that span with 17.7 and 46.1 marks. The sophomore's 19.4 scoring average is up from 6.4 during a freshman season in which he started 23 of 34 games.

It was a fitting end to a game in which the Friars were limited to a season-low 37.7 percent and 22.2 from 3-point range.

"We started the game bad and ended the game bad," said Cooley, whose team allowed its highest field-goal percentage of the season (51.2). "This one's definitely on me. I've got to do a better job of getting my guys prepared."

Even so, its perimeter defense was again stellar. The Friars have limited their three conference foes to 17.1 percent, but that'll be tough to keep up versus Creighton. The Bluejays (12-5, 3-1) have shot 40.0 percent from long range over their last eight and went 8 of 19 for a second straight game in Saturday's 82-67 win at Seton Hall.

Maurice Watson Jr. had 13 points and a season-high 14 assists on his way to being named Big East Player of the Week. The 5-foot-10 guard preceded it with a career-high 27 points in last Tuesday's 79-66 home win over Georgetown. In four conference games, Watson has averaged 18.0 points on 57.4 percent shooting with 7.5 assists.

"He can score the basketball at the rim," coach Greg McDermott said of the Boston transfer. "He's learned to become a good leader on the defensive end of the floor, and I think is finally understanding the impact he can have on that end of the floor.

"But his vision and ability to make plays for his teammates is as good as anybody I've ever coached."

Center Geoffrey Groselle benefited most against Seton Hall with a game-high 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, and the center has averaged 16.3 points on 85.7 percent in the last six games.

The result is a team on the verge of a fourth conference win after going 4-14 in regular-season Big East games a season ago. Over a 5-1 span, Creighton has averaged 86.5 points and shot 50.7 percent.

"Our guys pick their spots," McDermott said. "We've got an unselfish group and when we move the basketball, we're a pretty efficient offensive team."

It now just needs to happen against strong competition. Three of Creighton's five losses have come against the Top 25 to extend its skid against ranked foes to 10.

Providence has won four of five meetings since Creighton entered the Big East, including a 74-65 win in Lincoln on Jan. 17 behind Dunn's 21 points.

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