MAUI, Hawaii — A 12-2 run at the end of the game wasn’t enough as the No. 10 Creighton men’s basketball team lost 81-79 to No. 14 Arizona in the championship game of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.
The Wildcats are improving to 6-0 this season, while Creighton suffered their first loss, falling to 6-1.
Oumar Ballo made 14 of 17 shots and finished with 30 points and 13 rebounds to lead Arizona. He would be named MVP of the tournament. The remainder of the All-Tournament team will be named later tonight.
Ryan Nembhard had 20 points and six assists for Creighton, while Ryan Kalkbrenner (16), Trey Alexander (15) and Baylor Scheierman (11) also had double digits. Scheierman also snagged 11 defensive rebounds to win his third double-double of the winter.
The teams traded four draws and four lead changes in the first 12 minutes when Alexander heated it up early with a 5-on-5 shootout for the Bluejays. The Wildcats managed some separation with four straight baskets to build a 32-25 lead and force a Bluejay timeout with just under six minutes left in the first half. Three points from Cedric Henderson Jr. and Courtney Ramey helped the Wildcats move 11 ahead before two 9.1-second Alexander free throws pushed UA’s halftime lead to 39-30. Alexander accelerated CU with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half and also added five rebounds. Arizona was outscored with 16 points and nine rebounds on Ballo’s 7-of-8 shooting at the break.
Arizona built a 46-33 lead before the Jays recovered. Back-to-back-to-back threes from Alexander, Kalkbrenner and Scheierman cut the deficit to 47-43 with just under 15 minutes to go, but the Wildcats countered with a 12-2 run over the next three minutes. Just when it looked like Arizona might have the championship in hand, Creighton responded with five points in 23 seconds, closing the Bluejay lead to 79-72 with 2:38 left. A three-pointer from Scheierman cut the lead to four at 81-77 with 1:39 left. Kalkbrenner hit a foul shot with 48.6 left to set up a frantic finish with Arizona 81-78.
The Jays got a stop they needed and called a timeout ahead of time with 7.4 left. Nembhard was fouled with 2.0 left. He made the first and purposely missed the second from the side edge and Arizona grabbed the rebound. Time would be up as Creighton used two fouls yet to come and Arizona threw an inbound pass off Kalkbrenner’s knee to run the final 0.2 seconds.
Creighton returns for a 6pm game at the No. 4 Texas back on the pitch. The competition will be televised by ESPN and can be heard on 1620 The Zone and 101.9 The Keg.