Creighton Upstart Women Dominate Iowa State, Reach Elite Eight

GREENSBORO, North Carolina (AP) — The Creighton players gathered for a group hug near midfield as the final seconds ticked to the horn, then Tatum Rembau kicked the ball skyward in jubilation.

Moments later, the Bluejays moved on to share the celebration with fans and family near the court.

“The last two weeks haven’t felt real,” Morgan Maly said.

Believe it, Morgana. The 10th-seeded Bluejays are one game away from the Final Four.

She scored a career-high 21 points in Creighton’s 76-68 win over Iowa State on Friday night as the Bluejays became just the fourth double-digit seed to reach a regional final in the women’s tournament NCAA.

Tatum Rembao added 19 for the Bluejays, who entered the Greensboro-area semifinals relishing the program’s first leg to the Sweet 16. Now Creighton has joined Lamar in 1991 and Oregon in 2017 as only 10 seeds that pushed to the Elite Eight. Gonzaga in 2011 was the lowest seed ever at No. 11 to reach the Elite Eight.

“This team continues to amaze me,” said longtime Creighton coach Jim Flanery.

The challenge ahead is even greater for the upstart team: a matchup with tournament No. 1 seed South Carolina for a trip to the Final Four.

Creighton (23-9), who upset second seed Iowa in the second round, shot 55 percent after halftime with six 3-pointers. As third-seeded Iowa State (28-7) made a desperate comeback to cut a 13-point deficit to three, the Bluejays maintained control by knocking down enough free throws to keep second-team All -American Ashley Joens of the Cyclones and the Associated Press. at arm’s length.

Rembao played a key role in that, going 6 of 8 in the final 45 seconds.

“I told them, you want to keep going because that’s the goal,” Flanery said. “But I also want to keep coaching this team. That’s kind of what I thought is that I love coaching this team because it’s different people, different nights.

Emily Ryan had 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists to lead Iowa State, which shot just 38%. Joens had 14 points but only shot 3 of 11 and got a lot of his production on the line (7 of 7).

Iowa State was in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010.

“We knew going into this basketball game is a miss game,” longtime Cyclones coach Bill Fennelly said. “Especially with these two teams. They had a lot of tough shots tonight and unfortunately we couldn’t get the ball into the basket when we needed to.

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: The Bluejays showed a lot of composure by beating the Hawkeyes last weekend on the road, led by Lauren Jensen’s final 3-pointer. This time around, they played confidently in the third quarter and didn’t panic as the Cyclones got closer and closer.

Iowa State: Iowa State’s win over Georgia last weekend provided a measure of redemption for a team that blew a chance to go to last year’s Sweet 16 by losing on a last shot second in overtime against Texas A&M. Fennelly said he thanked his players “50 times” for bringing him back to this point and encouraged them to enjoy the moment. But they couldn’t quite follow that up with another step to the program’s first Elite Eight since 2009.

TAKE CONTROL

Creighton’s biggest lead, 66-53, came on back-to-back drives near the 3-point arc from Payton Brotzki – with no assist rotation to stop him – followed by a big 3-point from Rembao at 7 :16 mark.

Creighton shot 12 of 19 (63.2%) with five 3s in the third quarter.

DEFEND JOENS

Joens averaged 20.5 points, but she headed to the bench with two fouls midway through the second quarter and never had much pace.

She had just five points on 1-for-5 shooting at the break and scored no goals in the fourth quarter despite playing all 10 minutes.

“They did a great job defensively staying on top of us, kind of knowing our personnel and how to guard,” Joens said.

ENJOY THE MOMENT

Flanery eventually made it to the post-match celebration, but was more discreet than his players, giving the crowd a big smile and two thumbs up.

The players couldn’t wait for the locker room to get the water bottles out, instead showering Maly during a mid-pitch TV interview and then again when she joined the squad.

“I love playing with this team, and it makes the celebrations so much better,” said Maly, who shot 7 of 10 with three 3-point shots.

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This story has been corrected to show that Creighton is one of the lowest seeds to reach a regional final instead of matching the lowest seed.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25




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