OMAHA, Neb. — Northern Iowa kept Creighton star Doug McDermott under control, and the Panthers started the game making 3-pointers in rapid succession.
Then came an 11½-minute stretch in which they couldn't score a field goal, and they ended up with a 63-60 loss to the 23rd-ranked Bluejays on Tuesday night.
After scoring 31 points the first 13 minutes, the Panthers managed only 29 in the final 27.
"Yeah, we're (mad)," UNI's Jake Koch said. "They're a good team, but we lost. We don't want to lose. We'll go back to it the rest of the week and get ready for the next game."
The Panthers held McDermott, the nation's second-leading scorer at 25.2 points a game, to 14. But all the attention they gave to McDermott allowed Antoine Young to score a season-high 21 points for the Bluejays.
"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 Bluejays (14-2, 4-1 Missouri Valley Conference) could never build a safe lead despite shutting down the Panthers (12-5, 2-3) for such a long stretch over the first and second halves.
UNI had a chance to tie it in the last minute after Josh Jones was called for over-and-back against the Panthers' press.
Koch hit a short jumper to pull UNI to 61-60 with 19 seconds to play, but Grant 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 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.
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."