NEWARK, N.J. — Creighton got some major payback Saturday for a couple of close losses last season to Seton Hall.
The Bluejays got 30 combined points from centers Geoffrey Groselle and Zach Hanson, while Maurice Watson had 13 points and 14 assists in an 82-67 victory over the Pirates at the Prudential Center.
Seton Hall posted a pair of one-point wins over Creighton last season, winning each game on its final shot.
“We remembered that going into this game,’’ Groselle said on Creighton’s postgame radio show. “We got up to 20 points in this one. They put their best run up, and we did a good job of containing them.
“That’s what helped us win this game.’’
Creighton improved to 12-5 and 3-1 in the Big East with the win. Picked ninth by the coaches in the league’s preseason poll, the Bluejays find themselves in second place heading into Tuesday’s home game against No. 8 Providence.
“We’re moving in the right direction,’’ coach Greg McDermott said. “We’re far from a finished product. When you have success, there’s more belief in what we’re telling them.
“I like where we’re at. I like the direction that we’re moving, but we still have a long way to go, and we have a heck of a team coming in to play us Tuesday night.’’
Groselle, the nation’s leader in field-goal shooting, made 7 of 8 shots from the field, scoring 20 points. Hanson made 5 of 7 shots, including a pair of huge tip-ins in the second half, and the two centers combined for 10 rebounds.
“I thought Zach and Geoff played great,’’ McDermott said. “It’s a heck of a luxury to have them go 12 of 15, score 30 points and have 10 rebounds. That’s really good basketball.’’
An even greater luxury was the performance by Watson, whose double-double included the most assists by a Creighton player since Ralph Bobik had a school-record 17 in 1974.
Watson had eight assists and seven points to help build a 41-33 halftime lead.
“There was a lot of emotion on this game, and we wanted it so badly,’’ Watson said. “We came out a little bit out of our game, taking some contested shots.
“Those eight assists were a credit to my guys that knocked down some shots, and I got some layups early, so I was just able to spread them out.’’
Creighton fell behind 22-17 with about 8½ minutes left in the half before going on a 12-0 run. Isaiah Zierden started it with a steal and a three-point play. Cole Huff and Zierden buried back-to-back 3-point shots, and Watson capped the spurt with another three-point play, putting Creighton up 29-22.
The Bluejays outscored the Pirates 24-11 in those last 8½ minutes to take an eight-point halftime lead. Creighton then opened the second half with a 17-5 run that featured a seven-point possession.
Zierden made a 3-point shot and was fouled. He made the free throw, and Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado was called for a technical foul for elbowing Groselle in the chest while they battled for rebounding position.
Zierden made one of two free throws, and Groselle converted a layup to push Creighton’s lead to 54-37. Groselle added two layups on the Bluejays’ next three possessions to stretch the advantage to 58-38.
The Bluejays took their largest lead at 63-42 when Zierden buried his third 3-point basket of the game. Seton Hall countered with a 6-0 run, but Hanson tipped in a pair of missed shots to push the lead back to 19.
Zierden finished with 16 points, while Khadeen Carrington led the Pirates with 17 points. Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall’s seasonlong scoring leader with a 15.5 average, scored 10 points.
Whitehead got into foul trouble in the first half, and Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard sat Whitehead, Delgado and Desi Rodriguez for most of the final 13 minutes of the half.