Zegarowski, Creighton beat Ohio 72-58 to reach NCAA Sweet 16

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Creighton guard Marcus Zegarowski (11) celebrates a three-point basket against Ohio in the first half of a second-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Monday, March 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS – Marcus Zegarowski and his Creighton teammates battled through a close call — along with a few jitters — to open the NCAA Tournament.

Maybe those initial struggles helped prepare them for a performance — steady, confident and playing free, as Zegarowski described it — that gave the Bluejays a breakthrough tournament win.

Zegarowski scored 20 points to help Creighton beat Ohio 72-58 on Monday, securing the program's first trip to the round of 16 in 47 years.

When it was over, the Bluejays celebrated on the Hinkle Fieldhouse court with high-fives and hugs, then started motioning to their blue-clad fans to get louder and join the victory party. It included Zegarowski standing on a courtside table, and coach Greg McDermott giving a thumbs-up to fans at the other end as he walked off the court.

“It's a phenomenal feeling,” Zegarowski said. "This is a two-year kind of thing for us. We had it taken away from us last year. Everything we’ve been through this year is for moments like this, and I’m happy we capitalized and came through.

“But you know, we're not done yet. This just the start.”

The trials endured by Creighton this year included a near-crisis instigated by McDermott, who made a racially insensitive remark in the locker room to his players after a late-February loss. He was suspended for one game, apologized multiple times and was reinstated.

Creighton got blown out by Georgetown in the Big East Tournament final and survived a one-point win against UC Santa Barbara in the NCAA opener.