MAUI, Hawaii — A game-ending 12-2 run wasn’t enough as the No. 10 Creighton men’s basketball team fell 81-79 in the championship game of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational to No. 14 Arizona.
The Wildcats improve to 6-0 on the season, while Creighton suffered its first loss to drop to 6-1.
Oumar Ballo made 14-of-17 shots and finished with 30 points and 12 rebounds to lead Arizona. He would be named MVP of the Tournament. The rest 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 scored in double-figures. Scheierman also grabbed 11 defensive rebounds to earn his third double-double of the winter.
The teams exchanged four ties and four lead changes in the opening 12 minutes, as Alexander heated it up early on 5-for-5 shooting for the Bluejays. The Wildcats created some separation with four consecutive baskets to build a 32-25 lead and force a Bluejay timeout with just under six minutes left in the first half. Three pointers by Cedric Henderson Jr. and Courtney Ramey helped the Wildcats go up 39-28, CU’s largest deficit of the season, before two Alexander free throws with 9.1 seconds moved the UA’s halftime lead to 39-30.
Alexander paced CU with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half while also adding five rebounds. Arizona was topped by 16 points and nine rebounds on 7-of-8 shooting by Ballo at the break.
Arizona built a 46-33 lead before the Jays rallied. Back-to-back-to-back three-pointers from Alexander, Kalkbrenner and Scheierman trimmed the deficit to 47-43 with just under 15 minutes to play, but the Wildcats countered with a 12-2 run over the next three minutes.
Just when it looked like Arizona had the championship in hand, Creighton answered with five points in 23 seconds, narrowing the Bluejay gap to 79-72 with 2:38 left. A three-pointer from Scheierman cut the gap to four at 81-77 with 1:39 left. Kalkbrenner hit a foul shot with 48.6 left to set up a frantic finish.
The Jays got a stop it needed and called timeout in the frontcourt with 7.4 left. Nembhard was fouled with 2.0 left. He made the first and intentionally missed the second one off the side rim and Arizona grabbed the rebound. Time would expire as Creighton used two fouls it still had to give and Arizona threw an inbounds pass of Kalkbrenner’s knee to run off the final 0.2 seconds.
Creighton returns to the court on Thursday, Dec. 1, for a 6 p.m. game at No. 4 Texas.