Creighton couldn’t overcome a sharp-shooting Nothern Iowa team Wednesday night at the McLeod Center, falling 71-66 to Northern Iowa. The loss drops the Bluejays to 13-9 overall and 5-5 in the MVC, while moving UNI to 16-6 and 6-4 in The Valley. Creighton finished the game shooting 50 percent from the field (24-48) and 66.7 percent from the free throw line.
Creighton trailed at the half 31-26 after shooting 35.7 percent from the field in the first half. Antoine Young led the way with nine points, while Doug McDermott, Kaleb Korver and Jahenns Manigat had four boards each. Northern Iowa shot 44.8 percent in the first half, including 13-29 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line.
Creighton got the first bucket of the game when McDermott scored almost two minutes into the half. Young had a fastbreak and McDermott followed with a rebound and tip-in. MVC Player of the Week Kwadzo Ahelegbe of Northern Iowa scored the first basket for UNI on a lay-in just 20 seconds later. Ahelegbe scored 14 of the first 16 points for the Panthers, making five of his first six shots.
The Jays biggest lead of the first half was three points, coming at four different points in the half. Josh Jones’ three pointer at 17:28 made it a 5-2 game, his jumper at 16:29 made it 9-6, and Young’s jumper from Echenique at 15:11 made it 11-8. That was the last time the Jays led in the first half.
UNI went up for good in the half at the 14:02 mark, as part of an 8-0 run with six points from Ahelegbe. UNI then went on a 15-7 run, with baskets from Anthony Moran and a dunk from Anthony James (8:37 in the half) that made the McLeod Center explode. Creighton’s field goal by Wayne Runnels with 11:45 left in the half was the last field goal until the 3:37 mark for the Jays, when Young knocked down a three.
During that stretch, Creighton was 0-7 with seven turnovers and just two free throws (both by Young). UNI stretched its lead from 18-16 to 26-18. The eight point lead was the biggest of the half for the Panthers.
The Jays came out of the locker room and took their first lead since 15:11 in the first half, going on a 9-2 run to claim a 35-33 lead with 15:11 in the second half. Alternating buckets from McDermott and Echenique (McDermott making a three and a two-pointer and Echenique with a pair of two-pointers) gave the Jays their lead.
It didn’t last long, however, when Ahelegbe continued to be a difference maker in the game, assisting on two three pointers, the first by Chip Rank with 16:13 to play and the second by Kervin Dunham at the 15:26 mark. Ahelegbe then made two, old-fashioned three point plays at 13:08 and 9:17 in the game to put the Panthers up for the night.
McDermott made a pair of free throws with 7:29 left in the second half, pulling the Jays within three points, 55-52. But a 6-0 run by the Panthers, including Johnny Moran hitting on a three on a one pass fast break, followed on the next possession by a three-pointer from Anthony James, gave the Panthers the 61-52 lead with 6:14 remaining in the half.
Coming out of a Creighton-called timeout, Jones hit his first three pointer of the second half. After a Young defensive rebound, Jones again found himself open in the corner and was fouled on the shot. Jones made one of his three free throws, leaving the score at 61-55 with five minutes left in the game.
Heading into the four-minute media timeout, Creighton found themselves only trailing 62-58. A free throw and two-point bucket by Young pulled the Jays within three at 64-61 with just two minutes to play. A layup by Ahelegbe coming out of a Creighton time out gave UNI a five point lead.
Young was fouled with a minute left to play, but couldn’t connect on his free throws. A missed three pointer by Jones with 50 ticks left in the game put UNI on the line. A missed Creighton rebounding opportunity gave the Panthers another chance at the line, and Moran connected on both, drawing out the lead to 68-61.
Creighton got the ball back and pulled within five points, when Young scored his 20th point of the game with 21.1 seconds left. McDermott threw in a pass from the right side that Young finger-rolled into the basket. A single free throw by Jake Koch put the Panthers up 69-63.
Creighton scored its final basket of the game when Young made a three from the top of the key off a Manigat assist with 11.2 seconds in the game. The Panthers then ran the clock down to 4.7 before being fouled, and two free-throws by James sealed the victory, putting UNI up 71-66, which would end up being the ending margin.
Leading the way for Creighton was Young with a career high 23 points. His steal on the first possession of the first half gave him four steals, also a career high for Young. McDermott finished with a team high nine rebounds to go along with 16 points. Creighton’s other three starters combined for 19 points, and the bench scored just eight points on the night for the Jays. Creighton out-rebounded the Panthers 34-23, but just couldn’t capitalize on them.
UNI was led by Ahelegbe, who put together his third straight 20 point game, leading all scorers with 26 points, which was also a season high. The Panthers finished the game shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 40 percent from three point.
Creighton returns home on Saturday for a 2:05 pm game at Qwest Center Omaha against Indiana State.
Story courtesy of CU Athletics