OMAHA, Nebraska — By the time Bryce Cotton got going for Providence, it was too late.
The Big East's second-leading scorer had all 23 of his points in the second half in an 88-73 loss to No. 13 Creighton on Saturday night. The Friars really could have used some of those in the first half, when they fell behind by 23 points.
"That was a huge issue," Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "He's a 25-point scorer. He took three shots in the first half. Obviously, when he's aggressive, he's as good as there is in college basketball. He waited too long. Hopefully, as we move forward, he understands how important his scoring is for us."
The Friars needed Cotton and a whole lot more if they were going to win on Creighton's Senior Night.
"I'm a player that, if I don't think I have a good shot, I'm not going to force it," Cotton said. "I was able to get some looks in the second half. But I was just trying to do a good job of facilitating because (Creighton) did a good job of giving me a lot of attention, for sure."
Bluejays star Doug McDermott scored a career-high 45 points and became the eighth player in Division I history to go over 3,000 for a career.
Providence came in with wins in four of five games and fighting to stay in contention for an NCAA tournament bid. The Friars (20-11, 10-8 Big East) were trying to match their highest win total since 2000-01.
They are the fourth seed in the Big East tournament and will open Thursday against St. John's. Cooley said he couldn't predict what the Friars would have to do to get into the NCAA tournament short of winning the Big East tournament.
"The Big East deserves four or five teams in any (NCAA) tournament," he said. "When you look at our conference and how competitive it is, it'll be a travesty if there's not four or five teams in the tournament."
McDermott passed the milestone with a 3-pointer midway through the second half. After the ball went in, the crowd roared and he ran backward with his right hand in the air, three fingers raised. At the next timeout Doug and his coach-father, Greg McDermott, shared a long embrace on the court as the team huddled at the bench.
"It's a moment in time I'll never forget," Greg McDermott said.
McDermott scored 22 points in the first half as the Bluejays (24-6, 14-4) put away the Friars quickly.
Creighton shot 65 percent, and McDermott made five of the Bluejays' 10 3-pointers as they avenged an 81-68 loss in Providence in January.
"Defensively, we weren't the team I was accustomed to seeing," Cooley said. "We were a step slow and we allowed them to get in their comfort zone."
Before Saturday's game, Cooley was among a number of coaches and players who rubbed elbows with billionaire Warren Buffett, who was on hand as a guest of Creighton President Timothy Lannon.
The sellout crowd of 18,868 — the largest in the CenturyLink Center's 11-year history — roared during pregame introductions for McDermott and fellow seniors Ethan Wragge, Grant Gibbs and Jahenns Manigat. The class helped lead Creighton to 104 wins, the most over a four-year span for Creighton.
"We've played in hostile environments, and it was a special night for them," Cooley said. "Doug is one of the more electrifying players in college basketball, arguably the best player in college basketball. You're going to have days where a player is going to have a night like that. He had his on Senior Night. Congratulations to him."
McDermott, who has scored 25 points or more in nine of the last 10 games, looked determined from the start to reach the 3,000-point milestone in front of the home fans. The two-time first-team All-American made two 3-pointers while scoring 10 straight points at the start of a 24-5 run that put Creighton up 32-12 in the middle of the first half.
Creighton led 45-22 at half and never let the Friars get closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
McDermott, who has scored 40 or more points four times in his career, started the night eight points behind Oscar Robertson for eighth place on the NCAA scoring list and 34 points away from 3,000.