INDIANAPOLIS — Creighton has been itching to reach its first Sweet 16 since last year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament was canceled because of COVID-19.
Monday’s 72-58 win over Ohio was worth the wait.
“It’s a phenomenal feeling,” junior guard Marcus Zegarowski said, “We worked — this is a two-year kind of thing for us. We got it taken away from us last year, and everything we’ve been through this year is for moments like this, and I’m happy we capitalized and came through.”
Creighton went 24-7 last season and finished as the No. 7 team in the country in the final AP poll.
“The journey of the past two years with this core group of guys has been incredible, and as I told them before the game, this is where they were supposed to be,” coach Greg McDermott said, “
Creighton had an 0-8 record in the round of 32 before Monday night’s win, which was the worst record by any team in that round, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information.
The Jays were led by Zegarowski, who had 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting. Junior forward Christian Bishop was also a major contributor with a double-double on 13 points and 15 rebounds.
One of the keys to Creighton’s victory was holding Ohio junior standout guard Jason Preston in check offensively with just four points on 1-of-10 shooting. He also contributed nine rebounds and seven assists in 40 minutes.
“I had one of my worst games of my career today, but I’ll forever be thankful for this experience, the lessons I learned from all this,” he said.
Preston, who went from being a benchwarmer in high school to a pro prospect, wouldn’t say whether he would be entering the NBA draft.
“I can’t really think about that now,” he said. “I’ll take it day by day, pray about it, talk to God about it, talk to Coach [Jeff] Boals about it. We’ll weigh our options, and we’ll see what we’ll do.”
Creighton will face top-seeded Gonzaga in the next round, their first matchup since 2018 when Zegarowski was a freshman.
“I do remember that game,” Zegarowski said of the 103-92 loss to the Bulldogs on Dec. 1, 2018. “We were up in the second half. To beat them, we have to play really, really well for 40 minutes. We can’t have spurts where we take a bad shot or miss an assignment. … They’re a great team, and like I said, they don’t have any weaknesses. So for us to mess up on a game plan on defense or take a bad shot on offense is only going to help them out.”
“I’m still confident,” he said. “I feel ready. We’ll be ready.”
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