ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) " Marcus Foster admits that No. 12 Creighton really hasn't faced a tough test yet, even after beating No. 9 Wisconsin a week ago.
But the Bluejays got such a test Monday night, getting pushed to the limit by Mississippi before coming away with a 86-77 victory in the championship game of the Paradise Jam tournament.
Foster scored 25 points, and three other players finished in double figures for Creighton (5-0), which climbed 10 places in the AP Top 25 rankings released earlier Monday.
"This team is very tight, and we're very close," said Foster, the tournament's MVP. "We've just got to stick together when we face adversity."
Khyri Thomas added 16 points, Toby Hegner had 12 and Justin Patton 11 for the Bluejays (5-0), who trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half and were down 50-40 with 18:44 left in the second half.
"There was a lot of pointing fingers, a lot of arguing with the coaches, a lot of arguing with teammates," Foster said. "At halftime, we talked and came closer as a family. We have to stick together when we face adversity.
We haven't faced adversity all season, but we did tonight."
Creighton began its rally at that point, whittling down the Rebels' lead until tying the score twice, the last at 74-74 with 5:45 left. Thomas then put the Bluejays ahead to stay with his three-point play with 3:40 remaining.
That ignited a 12-3 Creighton run to close out the game, capped by a pair of free throws from Thomas with 40 seconds left.
"It was their offensive rebounding," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "You can't run if you don't get a rebound. They were so physical on the glass . and we can't play with any pace if that happens. But we stuck with it, and the guys stuck together. Defensively and in rebounding, we stepped up when we had to."
Deandre Burnett and Rasheed Brooks scored 22 points each, and Cullen Neal added 10 for Mississippi (4-1).
"Changing our defenses slowed them down a little bit," Rebels coach Andy Kennedy said. "But in the second half, it came down to them making plays. Our kids really battled, but when a Top 20 team shoots 16 of 26 from 3, it's hard."
Mississippi: Dominated the boards in the first half, with a 26-11 advantage. That included a 12-4 edge in offensive rebounds, leading to 19 second-chance points for the Rebels. They finished with a 37-27 advantage, 17-7 in offensive rebounds and 20-4 edge in second-chance points.
Creighton: The Bluejays, fresh off a 10-spot jump in the Top 25 rankings, shot 52.5 percent from the field (31 of 59), and made 16 of 26 3-pointers. That offset Mississippi's advantage in second-chance points.
After tying the score for the final time, Thomas scored eight of Creighton's final 12 points. After his three-point play, he connected on a 3-pointer, then capped things off with a pair of free throws with 45 seconds remaining.
Creighton reserve center Zach Hanson had missed just two field goals in the Bluejays' first four games (16 of 18). But against Mississippi, he was held to 1 of 7 shooting before coming out of the game with an ankle injury in the second half.
Creighton's big move up the Top 25 rankings may have been a little premature. At the very least, Mississippi may get some consideration from the Top 25 voters when the next rankings come out.
Mississippi: Hosts fellow Paradise Jam participant Montana on Thursday.
Creighton: Hosts Loyola (Md.) on Saturday.
This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings