OMAHA, Neb. -- Junior Dane Watts had a career-high 19 points, including two game-winning free throws with 7.5 seconds left, as Creighton beat George Mason, 58-56, at Qwest Center Omaha on Saturday.
The win was CU's second in 12 months over last year's Final Four Cinderella, and improved the Bluejays to 2-1 on the young season. George Mason fell to 2-2 overall, with their other setback coming against fellow Missouri Valley Conference power Wichita State.
Creighton fell behind 5-0 and 7-1 in the opening minutes before an 8-0 run gave them the lead for good. The run coincided with the insertion of Josh Dotzler and Nick Porter into the game, a pair of players coming off knee injuries. The Jays would lead by eight on two occasions in the first half, and took a 32-26 lead into the break after Mason's Will Thomas drained a basket just before the first-half buzzer.
Creighton would maintain a second-half lead, which reached as large as 50-41 with 6:41 to play after a driving lay-up by Nate Funk. However, back-to-back three-pointers from sophomore John Vaughan brought the Patriots within five.
The Jays led 56-49 with two minutes to play before three straight turnovers in the backcourt. Vaughan converted the first turnover into a jumper, while Thomas made a shot 28 seconds later to narrow the gap to 56-54 with 1:25 left. Following a timeout, CU turned it over yet again, and a lay-up by Thomas evened the score at 56-56 with 49 seconds to go.
Following a kicked ball, CU had the ball with a five-second differential between the shot and game clocks. Dotzler drove the lane and dished off to Watts, who was fouled by Vaughan with 7.5 seconds left. Watts, who shot 80.7 percent at the line as a freshman before dropping to 45.5 percent last season, calmly drilled both free throws to give CU a 58-56 lead. Mason pushed the ball upcourt, and Folarin Campell's 10-footer from the right baseline rimmed out with a second to play and time expired as Porter grabbed the rebound.
Creighton was paced by 19 points from Watts, one more than his previous best of 18 points as a freshman at Xavier. Watts finished 8-for-8 at the line and added five rebounds while making 3-of-4 shots from downtown. Anthony Tolliver had 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds. CU had eight others with between two and five points, including Funk's four points. The Jays shot 50 percent from the field in both halves, made 42.9 percent from three-point range (6-14), and 12-of-15 (80 percent) at the line.
George Mason had three players account for all but four of its 56 points. Vaughan had a game-high 22 points, while Campbell had 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals. Thomas scored 13 points. Mason shot 41.5 percent for the game (22-53), including 6-of-22 from downtown. The Patriots owned a 29-24 edge on the glass and had a 12-4 advantage in second-chance points and scored 18 points off 14 Bluejay turnovers.
- Creighton SID -