OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The season's second meeting between Creighton and UConn was billed as Round Two between big men Ryan Kalkbrenner and Adama Sanogo.
It turned out the main attraction Saturday was Trey Alexander versus Jordan Hawkins.
Alexander scored 17 points to lead No. 23 Creighton, Hawkins had what would have been a tying 3-pointer erased on video review in the final seconds, and the Bluejays held off the 21st-ranked Huskies 56-53.
Creighton (17-8, 11-3) won its eighth straight to land a half-game behind Big East-leading Marquette. Connecticut (19-7, 8-7) lost for the first time in four games.
Creighton was able to go to Alexander when it needed a basket, and he made a couple 3s just as the shot clock was about to expire. He was equally proud of his defense against Hawkins, the Big East's second-leading scorer behind Sanogo and a 40% 3-point shooter.
Hawkins was held scoreless on four shots in the first half and finished with 11.
“Somebody who has the kind of hype around his name that he does, you take the matchup kind of personal considering the fact they beat us at their house," Alexander said. “Coming into our building, we knew we were trying to impose our will early. I knew for us to do that we had to be able to stop him early because he likes to get going early.”
Alexander was playing with four fouls when he re-entered the game with just over 3 minutes to play. He scored inside to put the Bluejays up 54-49, but Hawkins’ second-chance basket pulled the Huskies within three with a minute left.
After Alexander missed the front end of a one-and-one, Hawkins rebounded Sanogo's miss and made a shot from the top of the key with 2.7 seconds left.
The basket originally was ruled a 3, which would have tied the game at 54, but officials changed it to a 2-pointer when the video review showed Hawkins’ right foot was on the line.
Kalkbrenner was fouled after catching the long inbounds pass and made the free throws for the final margin.
“If you wanted to capture Big East basketball in 40 minutes, that was it,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It was hard for both teams to score. Did we miss some open shots? Did they miss some open shots? Yes. But open shots were really hard to come by."
Sanogo had gotten the better of Kalkbrenner in the teams' first meeting, scoring 26 points in the Huskies’ 69-60 win in Storrs on Jan. 7.
Sanogo on Saturday finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double and he made a career-high three 3-pointers. Kalkbrenner was just 3 of 11 from the field and had 12 points and six rebounds.
Fans expecting to see Sanogo and Kalkbrenner battle in the paint got a surprise in the first half. The 6-9, 240-pound Sanogo’s expanded offensive game allowed the Huskies to keep things close as he made 3 of 5 3s.
Sanogo came into the season having attempted just one 3 in 52 career games. He showed up in Omaha 13 of 33 from distance this season. He opened the Huskies’ scoring with a 3 from above the key and ended the half with another from the same spot to cut Creighton’s lead to 31-29.
“I'm mad at him a little bit right now,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “I thought he should have shot two or four more 3s in the second half. For us to win that game, I almost felt like at half he was going to have to make another 3 or two.”
UConn: The Huskies never established an offensive rhythm. They had 11 of their 18 offensive rebounds in the second half but their inability to finish at the rim led to season-worst 32.3% shooting for the game.
Creighton: Despite being held 20 points under their season scoring average, the Bluejays are one of the hottest teams in the country and their six-game losing streak in December is a distant memory.
UConn: Looks to split the season series with Seton Hall when it hosts the Pirates on Feb. 18.
Creighton: Goes for the season sweep against Providence when it visits the Friars on Tuesday.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25