Northern Iowa overcame an early 7-0 deficit with a 28-5 run and never looked back while defeating visiting Creighton, 70-52, on Tuesday night at McLeod Center. With the win, Northern Iowa (23-3, 14-2 MVC) clinched its first-ever outright Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title. Creighton dropped to 13-14 with the setback and is now 8-8 MVC play, part of a three-way tie for fourth place with Bradley and Indiana State.
Creighton scored on each of its first three possessions to take an early 7-0 lead, forcing UNI to call a timeout after less than two minutes. Kenny Lawson Jr. scored inside, followed by a trey from Darryl Ashford and a lay-up by Justin Carter. UNI would answer with the next nine points, making four free throws and a deep three-pointer by Ali Farokhmanesh, as well as a tear-drop in the lane by Johnny Moran. It would not trail again.
Farokhmanesh would make four consecutive three-point attempts in the first eight minutes, helping UNI take a 20-12 lead. Lucas O’Rear, starting in place of suspended center Jordan Eglseder, then scored inside to push the Panther run to 22-5 and give UNI its first double-digit lead at 22-12. UNI then got three-point baskets from Anthony James and Johnny Moran to make it 28-12 with 9:31 to play.
The Jays would go more than 6:45 minutes without a field goal, watching UNI go on a 14-3 run, before an Antoine Young runner made it 28-16. Carter followed with a three-point play to close out a 7-0 Bluejay surge and get CU within nine points at 28-19. UNI went the final 9:23 of the first half without a field goal, but the Jays still found themselves down 37-24 at the intermission.
Farokhmanesh and Moran hit three-pointers in the first five minutes of the second half to build the Panther lead to 45-28. Nine of UNI’s first 13 baskets came from beyond the arc, a tremendous turnaround from Saturday’s 6-for-30 shooting from downtown in a loss at Bradley.
UNI went ahead by 20 for the first time at 51-31 on a free throw from Kwadzo Ahelegbe. From there, CU got within 14 points (56-42) with 9:54 left, but missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 as well as an open three-point look and would get no closer. UNI answered with eight straight to go ahead by 22 (64-42) to end any comeback threat.
Young had a season-best with 13 points to go with three steals, while Carter (11 points, seven rebounds) and Lawson Jr. (10 points, four rebounds) led Creighton statistically. The Bluejays shot 37.5 percent for the game (18-48), 26.1 percent from three-point range (6-23) and hit 71.4 percent from the line (10-14). CU won the rebounding battle 34-26.
Farokhmanesh tied his season-best with five three-point baskets and led all scorers with a season-best 17 points. Also in double-figures was Moran, whose 16 points were also his season-high. The Panthers shot 45.5 percent for the game (20-44), 48.1 percent from three-point range (13-27) and hit 73.9 percent from the line (17-23). UNI’s 13 three-point baskets were its second-most of the season, one off a season-high.
Creighton will step out of league play on Saturday to host Loyola Chicago in a BracketBusters match-up. Story courtesy of CU Athletics.