No. 23 Creighton 63, N. Iowa 60
Northern Iowa kept Creighton star Doug McDermott under control.
The Panthers' couldn't do the same with Antoine Young, who scored a season-high 21 points to lead the 23rd-ranked Bluejays to a 63-60 win on Tuesday night.
''I had a feeling going in they would try to make Antoine beat them, and Antoine beat them,'' Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. ''He had one of his best shooting games of the year on a night we desperately needed it.''
Young, shooting 39 percent for the season, made 9 of 14 shots, with his only 3-pointer giving the Bluejays a five-point lead with 2 minutes left.
''The game plan for them obviously was to make Antoine make shots, and he stepped up tonight,'' Creighton guard Grant Gibbs said. ''It was his night. I told him to keep doing his thing. Come off ball screens, knocking down shots, he was the difference in the game. Just tremendous.''
The Bluejays (14-2, 4-1 Missouri Valley Conference) held the Panthers (12-5, 2-3) without a field goal for 11 1/2 minutes over the first and second halves but could never build a safe lead.
UNI had a chance to tie it in the last minute after Josh Jones was called for over-and-back against the Panthers' press.
Jake Koch hit a short jumper to pull UNI to 61-60 with 19 seconds to play, but Gibbs made two free throws for the final margin. Gibbs had 10 points, five rebounds and three assists for the Bluejays.
''We were lucky to win,'' coach McDermott said. ''I'm not sure we did the job we needed to do to take away what they do best. They did an unbelievable job taking away what we do best.''
Doug McDermott came into the game as the nation's second-leading scorer at 25.2 points a game and off a career-high 44 points at Bradley on Saturday.
He found the going tough against the Panthers. Koch, two inches taller and 25 pounds heavier than the 6-foot-7, 220-pound McDermott, was the primary defender and frustrated him early. Sometimes Koch would go it alone, but the Panthers also ran a guard in to double-team McDermott in the post.
McDermott's first shot on a hook from the right side was an air ball, he was called for traveling the next time he got the ball inside and had three first-half turnovers. McDermott finished 7 of 15 but had eight rebounds and four assists.
''He gets a lot of points and rebounds and he works extremely hard,'' Koch said. ''We knew we had to key on their post guys and mix it up a little bit. He still had a very good game.''
Young was even better.
''Our bigs down low are a big part of our game,'' he said. ''If they're going to double, it's going to open up a lot.''
Young's biggest shot came after Gibbs had hit back-to-back jumpers to put the Bluejays in front 58-56. Johnny Moran missed a shot on the other end, and then Young dribbled behind the top of the key and made a 3-pointer that bumped Creighton's lead to five points with 2:07 to play.
''I was just trying to make a play like any other player,'' Young said. ''As soon as it left my hand it felt pretty good.''
Marc Sonnen scored a season-high 15 points for Northern Iowa - all in the first half - and Anthony James added 10.
The Panthers went 8 of 12 from 3-point range in the first half to build a double-digit lead and finished with a season-high 12 3s.
Sonnen made five 3-pointers in a row in the game's first 11 minutes, and the Panthers led by 11 points in the middle of the first half.
''I thought I gave us a good boost starting the game off against a really good team,'' Sonnen said. ''It helped us get a good lead. My teammates were finding me.''
After scoring 31 points the first 13 minutes, the Panthers managed only 29 in the final 27.
''Our defense got better,'' Greg McDermott said. ''We made them work a little harder, and we got Sonnen off the 3-point line.''