STORRS, Conn. — Damien Jefferson’s jumper with 0.2 seconds left forced overtime and No. 9 Creighton scored nine of the first 11 points in the extra session to pick up a 76-74 road win at Connecticut on Sunday afternoon. The game featured 15 lead changes and eight ties. spoiling the return of UConn to the BIG EAST Conference after seven years as a member of the American Athletic Conference.
After falling behind 8-3 in the first three minutes the Bluejays used a 9-0 run that included three-pointers from Jefferson and Mitch Ballock to move ahead. The margin stretched into double-figures on a Denzel Mahoney triple with 7:59 left in the first half that made it 25-15 and reached as large as 12 at 29-17 before UConn closed to within a pair following a 12-2 run of its own. Two free throws by Antwann Jones with 0.4 seconds left in the first half provided a 33-29 lead for the Bluejays at the intermission.
Mahoney led CU with seven points and seven rebounds in the first half, while Bouknight owned 10 of his 16 points during the final five minutes of the frame.
Bouknight continued his hot hand early in the second half, hitting a three-pointer as UConn went ahead 36-35 for its first lead since 8-6 in the opening minutes. The teams would alternate the lead seven times in the first six minutes of the second half, with Bouknight scoring on four different occasions to give UConn a one-point advantage.
UConn led 53-51 at the 8-minute media timeout before three straight hoops from Christian Bishop gave CU a 57-53 advantage as Dan Hurley called a timeout. The Huskies reclaimed the lead with back-to-back scores from Bouknight to move ahead 58-57 with 5:05 remaining. That was part of a 10-2 spurt that put the Huskies in the lead 63-59 at the final media timeout.
Creighton crept back with free throws by Bishop and Kalkbrenner and trailed 63-61 with two minutes left. Isaiah Whaley made 1-of-2 foul shots after a steal with 1:01 left. Creighton missed a three-pointer but got the offensive rebound and Bishop made a foul shot with 34.0 left to get CU within two. The Jays would foul Jalen Gaffney with 21.3 left and he swished both free throws to return the lead to four. Zegarowski then sped upcourt for an uncontested layup with 13.6 left. R.J. Cole missed two free throws with 11.2 left and Jefferson’s pull-up jumper with 0.2 left after an inbounds play tied it at 66 and forced overtime.
Creighton fell behind on the first possession of overtime as Jalen Gaffney got a friendly roll on the rim as the shot clock expired before CU answered with three in a row from Mahoney. The Bluejays grew the lead to three on a lob to Bishop with 50 seconds left to make it 71-68. Ballock made a pair of foul shots with 30.9 left to stretch the lead to 73-68. Zegarowski added two more with 22.6 ticks left. Bouknight scored a deep three-pointer with 11.7 left to slice the Bluejay margin to 75-71. Ballock was fouled with 10.2 left and split two free throws before Bouknight threw in a mostly meaningless three-pointer at the final horn.
Bishop led four Bluejays in double-figures with 19 points and Mahoney had his first double-double as a Bluejay with 10 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Also in double-figures were Ballock (13), Zegarowski (11) and Jefferson (10). The Bluejays won the rebound battle 48-41.
UConn was paced by 40 points from Bouknight, a record for a debut in a BIG EAST game. Cole added a dozen but shot just 2-of-13 from the floor. UConn shot 7-for-30 from three-point range.
Creighton returns to the court on Wednesday at 2 p.m. when it hosts Xavier on FS1.
NOTES: Each of Creighton’s first three baskets were three-pointers. Creighton has now made a three-pointer in 890 straight games, and a three-pointer before half in 261 games in a row … Mitch Ballock has made a three-pointer in 14 straight games … Ballock now owns 254 career three-pointers, which ranks fifth-most nationally among active players … This was the first meeting between UConn and Creighton … Denzel Mahoney’s 13 rebounds were a collegiate high and helped him earn his first double-double as a Bluejay … Damien Jefferson scored in double-figures for the seventh straight game, extending the longest streak of his career … UConn had allowed just 15 three-pointers and 19 assists total in its first three games of the season before CU made seven on Sunday. CU also dished 13 assists … Creighton has now knocked off at least one unbeaten team in all 11 seasons with Greg McDermott as a head coach … UConn’s last BIG EAST loss had come March 6, 2013 at South Florida … Greg McDermott improved to 3-0 in his career in road games against the Hurley brothers, having beaten Dan Hurley’s brother Bobby twice at Arizona State in recent seasons … Creighton improved to 6-0 in games that Ryan Kalkbrenner has made a field goal and 6-0 when Kalkbrenner has a blocked shot … Greg McDermott improved to 9-5 in his Creighton career in overtime games.