MILWAUKEE (AP) — Creighton’s lead kept shrinking every time Marquette’s D.J. Carton fired away from 3-point range. So with the game on the line in the final seconds, Shereef Mitchell made sure Carton couldn’t take a tying shot.

Mitchell’s defense in the closing seconds helped No. 15 Creighton escape with a 71-68 victory Saturday after it squandered most of a 12-point advantage.

Carton hit two 3s in the last minute to get the Golden Eagles within striking distance, but was unable to get free of Mitchell in the closing seconds of a three-point game. Marquette settled for a contested 3-point attempt from Koby McEwen that bounced off the rim.

Mitchell went scoreless and played just eight minutes, but the Bluejays might not have held on without his tenacity at the end.

“He’s just a gnat you can’t get rid of,” teammate Damien Jefferson said. “When you see a guy like that that’s busting his tail from like 94 feet every game, every day period, it’s just great. It’s great having him on our team. I wouldn’t like going against him.”

Creighton (14-5, 10-4 Big East) bounced back after getting upset 86-79 at home by Georgetown on Wednesday night. The Bluejays also earned a measure of revenge against Marquette, which won 89-84 at Creighton on Dec. 14.

Advertising

Christian Bishop had 14 points, Jefferson and Marcus Zegarowski scored 13 each and Ryan Kalkbrenner added 11 for Creighton.

Carton scored 16 points, Jamal Cain had 14 and Theo John added 10 for the Golden Eagles (9-10, 5-8).

Marquette trailed by 12 in the second half but rallied as Carton sank two 3-pointers in the final minute. Carton’s last 3 cut Creighton’s lead to 70-68 with 35.9 seconds remaining.

Zegarowski made one free throw but missed his second with 23.7 seconds left, giving Marquette one last chance.

“We wanted the ball in D.J.’s hands to try to make a play,” coach Steve Wojciechowski said.

Mitchell, who had checked into the game during Zegarowski’s free throws, knocked the ball away from Carton with about 12 seconds left. Carton regained possession and passed to McEwen. Carton then couldn’t get free of Mitchell to get the ball back.

Advertising

That forced McEwen to try a contested 3 with Zegarowski closely guarding him.

“Shereef I didn’t think had a particularly great game by Shereef’s standards,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “But to sit there and be ready to go in and have your number called the last possession of the game and to stay down on D.J. Carton and make him give the basketball up — I mean, everybody in the building thought (Carton) was shooting it, and Reef did a great job of making him give that up. We really defended that play well.”

Creighton made amends for its early season loss to Marquette by dominating the glass.

The Bluejays outrebounded Marquette 38-26 and outscored the Golden Eagles 19-4 in second-chance points. In the first meeting between the teams, Marquette outrebounded Creighton 42-27.

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: Bishop hurt his left leg immediately after the opening tip and limped into the locker room, but returned less than five minutes into the game and helped the Bluejays dominate the boards. Bishop had eight rebounds to tie Jefferson for the team lead. … Creighton closed the first half on a 13-2 run to take the lead for good.

Marquette: Justin Lewis returned to action after missing two games with a leg injury, but went scoreless in eight minutes before the Golden Eagles decided to shut him down for the day. Lewis entered averaging 8.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 22.3 minutes per game. “Justin is not close to 100%, but again with the situation we have, with guys being banged up, he wanted to play,” Wojciechowski said.

Advertising

The Golden Eagles were missing reserve forward Oso Ighodaro due to a foot injury. Jose Perez, who hadn’t played in a game since Nov. 27, scored four points in 12 minutes.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Creighton still might drop a few spots in the AP Top 25 on Monday because of its loss to Georgetown, but this victory could keep the Bluejays somewhere in the top 20.

UP NEXT

Creighton plays at Georgetown on Tuesday.

Marquette visits No. 3 Villanova on Wednesday in the first of five consecutive scheduled road games.

___

Follow Steve Megargee at https://twitter.com/stevemegargee