UNI Snipes Bluejays
February 4th, 2012 by Chris Parks
James scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and Seth Tuttle added 13 points for the Panthers, who handed visiting Creighton its first loss since late December.
James buried a huge 3 from the corner with 23 seconds left to put Northern Iowa (16-9, 6-7 MVC) ahead 61-56. Creighton’s Antoine Young hit a 3 with 4.6 seconds left to tie it at 62-all. But James dribbled the length of the court and pulled up for the game-winner at the buzzer, sending Panthers streaming onto their home court.
Young scored 23 points and Doug McDermott, who originally committed to Northern Iowa, had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Creighton (21-3, 11-2).
James’ stunning final shot was a fitting caper to this back-and-forth contest between these heated Valley rivals.
Northern Iowa opened up a 51-45 lead with 5:21 left. The Panthers reeled off an 11-2 run capped by a Deon Mitchell layup and a 3 from Chip Rank, and McDermott picked up his fourth foul on a charge near the basket.
Young stopped the UNI surge with a three-point play, pulling the Bluejays within a possession with 3:55 left, but Jake Koch’s 3 with 1:11 left gave the Panthers a 58-54 lead.
Creighton’s Jahenns Manigat made it 61-59 on a 3 with 15 seconds left. But James, who shot 6 of 14 from the floor, hit the one that mattered at the end.
Northern Iowa’s Johnny Moran buried a 3 and Rank scooped through heavy traffic, putting the Panthers ahead 39-34 with 14:40 left. They could’ve gone ahead by seven, which would have been the biggest lead yet for either team, but Young smartly stripped Matt Morrison at the rim.
Ethan Wragge’s rushed 3 and bank shot at the end of two sloppy possessions brought Creighton back even at 40-all. McDermott then tipped a loose ball to himself over four Panthers in the paint, converting a three-point play to give the Bluejays a 43-40 lead with 11:02 left.
The Panthers got 3s from five different players in the first half, including one from Rank with 1:03 left that helped them take a 31-30 halftime lead.
Northern Iowa rolled into Valley play with a realistic shot at yet another NCAA tournament berth after wins over Old Dominion, Providence, Iowa and Iowa State in nonconference play. But the Panthers had lost four of their last six, uncharacteristically struggled to knock down shots.
That probably wouldn’t have been an issue if McDermott had stuck around.
Panthers coach Ben Jacobson graciously let McDermott leave when his father Greg left Iowa State for Creighton before Greg’s freshman year.
No one could have imagined he would blossom into one of the nation’s best players – and Northern Iowa’s student section showed their bitterness by booing McDermott when he touched the ball.
McDermott was as good as ever, shooting 7 of 11 from the floor, but the Panthers hit 11 of their 21 tries from 3 – including James’s dramatic finale