OMAHA, Neb. – Preseason MVC Player of the Year Kenny Lawson Jr. dunked the ball with 18 seconds left and hit a pair of free throws to give No. 18 Creighton a 74-70 victory over Northern Arizona at the Quest Center Omaha Sunday afternoon.
NAU (0-2) had a chance to tie or go ahead trailing by two but senior Eric Platt's three-pointer missed. Lawson rebounded the ball and was fouled, hitting both free throw attempts to seal the victory. It was the 33rd consecutive regular-season November home win for the Bluejays.
"I am really proud of the guys," said Head Coach Mike Adras. "They really battled back and made some big plays. You could see the confidence level of our team really soaring there in the second half."
The Lumberjacks hit seven consecutive three-pointers in the second half to get back in the game after trailing by nine points at halftime and as many as 15 points early in the second half.
Senior Cameron Jones started the run with a pair of jumpers sandwiching two free throws by Durrell Norman. Sophomore Stallon Saldivar started the three-pointer run with Gabe Rogers and Platt each hitting three long-range shots.
NAU led by five points at 58-53 with 7:35 left in the game after the 27-7 run but Creighton recovered to take a five-point lead.
The Bluejays went on a 15-5 run helped by several offensive rebounds over the next four minutes. CU's Josh Jones followed a miss with a lay-up, and Wayne Runnels scored four straight points to put CU up 59-58 with six minutes to play. The Jays didn't trail again. Up 70-68 with 1:27 left, Creighton had a shot clock violation. NAU's Cameron Jones would miss a lay-up, only to have teammate Josh Lepley tip-in the miss to knot the score with 54.1 seconds left.
Following a timeout, Josh Jones would drive baseline and feed Lawson, who pump-faked before dunking on two defenders with 18 seconds left to give Creighton the lead. NAU would follow a timeout by curling Eric Platt around a screen, but Platt's shot missed. Lawson chased down the rebound, and was immediately fouled. He sank both shots at the line to ice the game.
Rogers finished with a game-high 18 points, two points shy of his career best established against Portland State and Eastern Washington last season. He went 6-for-14 from the field with five three-pointers. Platt had 13 points helped three triples, while Cameron Jones had 12 points.
The Lumberjacks shot 44 percent from the field with 10 three-pointers in the contest. Creighton shot just 36 percent but were aided by a 29-for-33 night at the free throw stripe setup by 27 Lumberjack fouls. NAU had just 13 free throw attempts in the game, making 10.
"They made 19 more points than us at the free throw line and we lost by four and still had a chance to win," said Adras. "From that sense, I am very proud of what our guys accomplished. It was a tough place to play and they win a lot of ball game here. We forced them to do a lot of things they were not comfortable doing."
Creighton was ranked No. 18 in the Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major poll. NAU was looking for their first victory over a ranked team since the Lumberjacks defeated sixth-ranked Western Kentucky on Dec. 1, 2007. NAU has lost five straight games to Collegeinsider.com-ranked teams.
Creighton had five players in double figures led by Runnels, who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double. Kaleb Korver had 12 points and Antoine Young posted 11 in the game. Lawson finished with 10 points in the contest.
The foul trouble by the Lumberjacks hurt in the contest with six players finishing with three or more fouls. Senior Shane Johannsen fouled out in the contest with four points and two rebounds.
"Shane did not play in the final four minutes and that hurt us a great deal," said Adras. "Free throws won this ball game and our lack of rebounding."
NAU trailed throughout the first half, trailing 34-25 at the half.
The Lumberjacks return home to host a pair of games this week in the state of Arizona. NAU will play Alabama State Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott and host Southwestern Friday night at the Rolle Activity Center at 7:30 p.m. as part of a doubleheader.
Alabama State (0-2) lost at Iowa State on Sunday 74-47. Tickets for the game in Prescott range from $9 to $40. They can be purchased online at http://www.gettix.net/, charged by phone at 1-866-443-8849, or at the Tim's Toyota Center Box Office located at 3201 N Main, Prescott Valley, Arizona. Regular Box Office Hours are Monday - Friday 10 am to 5pm.