8:05 PM ET, January 14, 2004
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) -- Creighton had no answer for the biggest game of Brooks McKowen's brief college career.The freshman made six of Northern Iowa's 12 3-pointers in scoring a season-high 24 points and the Panthers knocked Creighton (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) from the ranks of the unbeaten with an 82-73 victory Wednesday night. "McKowen gets that confidence and he's hitting 23-footers," Creighton's Brody Deren said. "We had so many breakdowns it was embarrassing." Northern Iowa (8-5, 3-2 Missouri Valley Conference) shot 59.3 percent in building a 10-point halftime lead and increased the margin to 21 midway through the second half, enough of a cushion to hold off a late run by Creighton. The Bluejays (12-1, 4-1), who joined the Top 25 only two days ago, became the third unbeaten team to lose in two nights. Wake Forest and Mississippi State both lost for the first time on Tuesday night. The remaining unbeaten Division I teams are Stanford, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Saint Joseph's. "Anytime you get a nationally ranked team, with Creighton's success the last four or five years, they've been to the (NCAA) tournament, they're experienced, they're where we're trying to get," Northern Iowa's David Gruber said. "We felt confident having them come into our home turf that if we executed our game plan and came ready to play, we had a great shot." McKowen, whose previous best was 18 points against Southwest Missouri State on Sunday, finished 6-for-7 from 3-point range and made four straight free throws in the final 1:06 to help secure the victory. He also had four assists and committed only one turnover in 31 minutes. "That kid is a winner," Northern Iowa coach Greg McDermott said. "One turnover, under all that pressure, he was rewarded for his hard work tonight. He's spent the time. For a freshman to stand up to that pressure, it really says something about him." Chris Foster added 15 points and Gruber had 12 for Northern Iowa, which shot 53.8 percent for the game and upset a ranked team for the second time in five weeks. The Panthers beat then-No. 24 Iowa 77-66 on Dec. 9. Deren led Creighton with 14 points, while Johnny Mathies, Kellen Miliner and Jimmy Motz each scored nine. "It seemed like they ran their offense faster than we ran our defense," Mathies said. "It was a lack of competitiveness on our part." Creighton played its second straight game without guard Tyler McKinney, who leads the team in assists. McKinney is hospitalized with an eye infection and it's not known when he'll return. Northern Iowa led 66-45 after Erik Crawford's layup with 11:11 left, but Creighton did not allow the Panthers to sit on that lead. Deren's layup capped a 14-2 run that cut the lead to 68-59 and the Bluejays trailed 72-65 when Deren made a hook shot with 3:58 to play. The lead shrank to 76-70 when Mathies hit a 3 with 54 seconds remaining, but McKowen made two free throws, Gruber sank one and Foster scored on a breakaway layup to blunt the rally. Northern Iowa frustrated Creighton in the first half with its versatility on offense. When Creighton played man-to-man, the Panthers got the ball inside. When the Bluejays cut that off by going zone, Northern Iowa connected from the perimeter. Creighton led 28-24 after a 15-2 run in which seven different players scored. But Northern Iowa answered with its outside shooting, McKowen hitting three 3-pointers and Ben Jacobson one as the Panthers built a 40-32 lead. McKowen then fed Gruber for a dunk to make it 42-32, and it was 44-34 at halftime. "We're about execution," McDermott said. "If we execute on both ends of the floor, we can beat anybody we play."
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