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Morgan Maly and Creighton shot exceptionally well when they held a closed scrimmage on Iowa’s home court last fall.
Those memories returned when the Bluejays were back in the same arena to open the NCAA tournament.
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Maly matched a career high with 20 points and Lauren Jensen and Molly Mogensen each had 16 as 10th-seeded Creighton defeated No. 7 seed Colorado 84-74 on Friday in a Greensboro Region first-round game.
Emma Ronsiek added 10 points for the Bluejays, making their first NCAA appearance since 2018.
Creighton (21-9) will play either No. 2 seed Iowa or No. 15 seed Illinois State in Sunday’s second round. Colorado finished the season at 22-9.
The Bluejays shot 50.9% in the game, including 53.6% in the first half.
“That’s what Lauren said on the bench at the end of the game,” Maly said, smiling. “It’s like the ball falls here.”
Creighton led 63-61 with 6:54 left in the fourth quarter, then pulled away with a 7-0 run. That burst was helped by cold shooting by the Buffaloes, who missed 10 of 11 shots during one stretch.
Mogensen had 11 of her points in the fourth quarter.
“She was huge for us,” Creighton coach Jim Flanery said. “The fourth quarter was her quarter.”
Colorado closed within 72-68 with 2:21 to play and had a chance to get closer, but Mya Hollingshed missed a 3-pointer, then Kindyll Wetta missed a layup after coming up with a steal. Creighton closed the game by making all 10 of its free throws in the final 1:28.
“I thought we just stuck together there,” Maly said. “We handled their pressure at the end, and made our free throws.”
Colorado started strong, taking an early 11-2 lead. The Buffaloes led almost the entire first half before the Bluejays rallied with a 9-0 run to close the half and lead 36-31.
“That was huge,” Flanery said. “You just feel better going into the half like that. We weren’t perfect (in the first half), but we ended it pretty well.”
Said Jensen: “I feel like we just kind of settled in.”
“Naturally, it’s the NCAA Tournament, so we might have had some jitters there to start the game. Once we settled in, started making more reads, and handling their pressure, that was good for us,” he said.
Jaylyn Sherrod had a career-high 27 points for Colorado. Hollingshed, the Buffaloes’ leading scorer this season, had 15 points, 13 in the second half. Quay Miller had 12.
The Buffaloes had only seven players playing double-digit minutes.
“Our effort was fantastic,” Colorado coach JR Payne said. “But our lack of depth hurt us. In the end, it just wore us down.”
Creighton had 41 bench points to just 20 for the Buffaloes.
“We had enough people make plays,” Flanery said. “And that’s what I think is the beauty of this team.”
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Creighton senior guard Rachael Saunders grew up in Iowa City, graduating from West High School.
Saunders had five points. Her two free throws with 14 seconds left closed the scoring.
Saunders’ father, Mike, played football at Iowa.
IT WAS HOME
Jensen was familiar with the arena — she played at Iowa as a freshman last season before transferring.
Jensen played 17 games for the Hawkeyes, who reached the NCAA tournament regional semifinals. Now she might get a chance to play them in the second round.
“It’s crazy,” Jensen said. “It does come full circle. But it is fun being back here.”
Creighton came into the tournament having lost back-to-back games, but looked strong in holding off the Buffaloes. Creighton beat Iowa in the first round of that 2018 tournament before losing to UCLA.
Colorado, in the tournament for the first time since 2013, had won eight of its last 10, with the two losses coming to Stanford.
Creighton: Plays Iowa or Illinois State on Sunday.
Colorado: Season over.