OMAHA, Nebraska — Creighton coach Greg McDermott couldn't have asked for more from his struggling and short-handed team against No. 19 Seton Hall.
The Bluejays lost 68-67 on Saturday after the Pirates' Sterling Gibbs hit a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left and James Milliken's 3-point try at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
That Creighton was that close against a ranked opponent was an accomplishment under the circumstances.
The Bluejays played the last 29 minutes without point guard and leading scorer Austin Chatman and the entire second half without top 3-point shooter Isaiah Zierden. Chatman left after hitting his head, and Zierden hurt his right knee. They also were missing big man Zach Hanson, who injured his shoulder in practice.
That left McDermott to go with a six-man rotation that had walk-on Tyler Clement taking over for Chatman at point guard.
"We had 50 reasons to pack it in today, from guys with the flu, to Zach being out, to 'Z' and Austin being out," McDermott said. "That's as proud as I've felt, win or lose. They competed and didn't doubt each other. It's a make-or-miss game, and they made a tough one and we got a pretty good look and missed it."
The Bluejays have lost five straight for the first time since 1997-97.
"We're still the same team that beat Oklahoma and Nebraska," center Will Artino said. "This is one of the best efforts we've given. Sometimes the ball doesn't fall at the end. We'll keep working to right the ship and come together Monday and keep grinding."
Gibbs had made three 3-pointers in the first half and felt confident he could get the Pirates out of CenturyLink Center with a win.
"Honestly," Gibbs said, "I really wanted to just end that game because if we had gone to overtime, I think it would have been tough for us."
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard agreed. The Bluejays only seemed to get stronger as the game went on despite playing without two of their best players.
Gibbs bounced back from an eight-point night in a loss to Xavier to score 22, making 4 of 8 3-pointers. Khadeen Carrington had 11 points and Brandon Mobley matched his career high with 13 rebounds for the Pirates (13-3, 3-1 Big East).
Milliken had 20 points in his first start, Artino had 14 points and 11 rebounds in a career-high 35 minutes and Rick Kreklow added 10 points for the Bluejays (9-8, 0-4).
After the Bluejays took the lead with 17 seconds left, the Pirates called timeout twice before the winning play. After Gibbs swished his winning 3, he turned his heels, walked to mid-court and saluted with his right hand.
The shot was reminiscent of his last-second 3-pointer that beat then-No. 3 Villanova in the Big East tournament last season.
"We have the utmost confidence in Sterling," Willard said. "He's carrying us right now."
Seton Hall: Angel Delgado was back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench for the first time against Xavier. ... The Pirates got a brief scare in the first half when Gibbs dropped to the floor after an apparent collision with a teammate. An athletic trainer looked at his right leg, and then he returned to the game looking no worse for the wear.
Creighton: Milliken made his first start, and guard Avery Dingman was on the floor to begin the game for the first time in three games. They replaced Zierden, who had started six straight, and Devin Brooks, who had started all but five games. ... Dingman blocked his second shot of the season on the first shot attempt of the game, stuffing Jaren Sina as he drove to the basket. The Pirates returned the favor a few minutes later when Desi Rodriguez swatted Dingman's fast-break layup try.
Seton Hall hosts Butler on Tuesday night.
Creighton visits Marquette on Wednesday night.
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