Christian Bishop made both ends of a one-and-one with 16 seconds left to give fifth-seeded Creighton the lead, and the Bluejays hung on to beat 12th-seeded UC Santa Barbara 63-62 on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Creighton's turbulent season, which included a one-game suspension for coach Greg McDermott after he made a racially insensitive remark in the locker room, continues Monday in the West Region when the Bluejays (21-8) face either Virginia or Ohio.
Bishop was fouled by Amadou Sow on the floor after grabbing an offensive rebound and went to the line with the Gauchos (22-5) up 62-61.
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The junior came into the game making 57% from the line, but dropped in both, barely touching the rim.
The Gauchos (22-5) came right down and put the ball in the hands of their best player, JaQuori McLaughlin. The Big West player of the year split a double-team behind the 3-point line and found Sow in the lane, but the 6-foot-9 junior couldn't finish at the rim. Shereef Mitchell rebounded the miss for Creighton with 3 seconds left.
Sow scored the last four points for UC Santa Barbara, including two free throws for the lead with 37.9 seconds left, and finished with 12 points. McLaughlin led UCSB with 13 points.
The Big West champions with a beachside campus were making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011 and nearly won in the Big Dance for the first time in 31 years.
Marcus Zegarowski scored 17 to lead Creighton and Bishop had 15 points and 11 rebounds,
The Bluejays won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 2014, when they reached the second round for the third straight season behind McDermott's father, Doug McDermott.
It seemed hardly certain the younger McDermott would lead the team into the tournament this year after he created a firestorm by twice using the term “plantation” as part of an analogy urging team unity.
He was suspended for the final game of the regular season, apologized multiple times and was reinstated for the Big East Tournament. Creighton reached the final before being blown out by Georgetown.
The Bluejays pushed ahead of the Gauchos by 10 points in the first seven minutes of the second half, making it 47-37 on Mitch Ballock's three-point play off a drive to the basket.
It didn't last long. Miles Norris had a blocked shot that led to his transition 3 in a 13-2 surge for the Gauchos that put them up 50-49 with 9:46 left.
Creighton grabbed the lead back with 3:08 remaining when Bishop finished a pick-and-roll with a reverse two-handed dunk to make it 59-58. After a long UCSB possession that produced no points, Zegarowski made a straight-on jumper with 1:39 left to make it 61-58.
UC Santa Barbara: The Gauchos started fast, making nine of their first 12 shots and taking a 23-15 lead. After grabbing a six-point led in the second-half on a McLaughlin 3, UCSB tried to run the clock and shorten the game, but they didn't get enough good looks down the stretch.
Creighton: McDermott's troubles emerged amid some uneven play by the Bluejays, who were 3-3 in their previous six games. They dropped consecutive games to Xavier and Villanova and weren't competitive against Georgetown.