• Photo Showcase: CU men's basketball, Feb. 18
• Box Score: Creighton 81, Long Beach State 79
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The biggest basket of Antoine Young's career late Saturday night gave Creighton one of the biggest wins in the history of Omaha's downtown arena.
Young lofted a short jumper over the outstretched hand of 6-foot-8 Long Beach State forward T.J. Robinson that settled through the basket with three-tenths of a second to play to give the Bluejays an 81-79 BracketBusters victory before an announced crowd of 16,503 at CenturyLink Center.
“He forced me into a tough shot, but as soon as it left my hand, I thought it was good,” Young said of the 425th basket of his four-year career. “I had to get into him a little bit, but he still made it a tough shot.
“This was a really big win, something we really needed. That was a really, really good team that we just beat. This was a good one for us.”
Young's basket touched off a stampede of students onto the court, but the game wasn't over. The officials ruled that three-tenths of a second still remained, giving Long Beach one last gasp after the court was cleared.
But 6-foot-11 Will Artino knocked down Larry Anderson's inbounds pass, and the 49ers never got a shot off.
“This is a fitting way, in my opinion, for Antoine to end a very good career,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “He's got one more home game left here on Tuesday, but this will be one he'll remember for the rest of his life.”
As will anyone else in attendance. Creighton has had its share of dramatic battles since the building opened in 2003 — Anthony Tolliver's buzzer-beating shot to beat Wichita State in 2006 and the Bluejays' 111-110, double-overtime victory over Bradley in 2008 being among the best.
But for pure emotion, among players and fans alike, this one ranked a notch or two above those because of the quality of the opponent.
Long Beach came into the game with a 19-6 record, with four of its losses being to ranked teams. The 49ers have one of the best point guards in the country in Casper Ware and a roster loaded with big, athletic players.
“If that team is not an NCAA tournament team, I don't know what one is,” said McDermott, whose team improved to 23-5 with its second straight win. “the team that came in and beat us last week — Wichita State — is very talented. This team is equally talented, but we just played a little better tonight.”
No Bluejay played better than Doug McDermott, who led the Bluejays with 36 points and 11 rebounds. McDermott did not miss a shot in the final 20 minutes, going 8 of 8 from the field and 4 of 4 from the free-throw line in refusing to let the decision slip away from the Bluejays.
“He was special,” Long Beach coach Dan Monson said. “Not just his skill set, but he was the toughest guy out there. Any loose ball, he just ended up with. He was toughest, and the best player on the court today.
“When you put those two things together, then you call it special, and he was special.”
McDermott scored nine of his points in the game's first four minutes as the Bluejays landed the first punch. The 49ers recovered, took their first lead with 13:49 left in the half and their third just more than a minute later.
They didn't give it back until Young's winning basket. Creighton, down five points at the half, cut its deficit to one point on two occasions in the first 11 minutes of the second half before a 6-0 Long Beach run left the 49ers with a 71-64 lead with 8:18 to play.
The advantage was still seven points with five minutes remaining before the Bluejays buckled down, allowing Long Beach to score just one free throw and one basket the rest of the way.
Creighton kept clawing back, getting within 79-77 on McDermott's layup with 1:55 to play and tying the game when Gregory Echenique hit a short hook shot with 1:09 remaining.
That set up the wild finish. Long Beach missed its next shot when Ware misfired on a jumper, but Creighton gave the ball back when freshman Austin Chatman was called for over-and-back with 41 seconds left.
The 49ers tried to work the ball in to Robinson, who had made 8 of 10 shots in scoring 20 points. The senior forward couldn't handle the pass, letting it ricochet off his leg and out of bounds with 29 seconds left.
Creighton hustled the ball over halfcourt and called timeout to set up a final play.
“The most important thing was we were going to take the last shot,” Greg McDermott said. “I would have been more disappointed if we would have given them four or five seconds than if we would have shot it after the horn. That's how badly I didn't want them to have the ball in their hands with their ability to attack and hit tough shots.
“We waited a little longer than we'd normally wait.”
After taking the inbounds pass, Young dribbled near halfcourt as the seconds ticked away. His options on the final play included having 3-point specialist Ethan Wragge in the corner or McDermott swinging to the basket after he set a screen for Young.
Young came off the ball screen with about five seconds left, dribbled hard toward the basket before pulling up to launch about a 7-foot shot from just to the right of the free-throw lane.
“Coach put the ball in my hands, and I had the confidence to go make a play,” said Young, who finished with 16 points. “Their guy played pretty good defense for a big guy guarding a guard. He forced me to take a tough shot.”
Young hit it, delivering the basket that will become his legacy.
“That's one of the most fun games I've ever been a part of,” Young said. “It just reflects on this whole year. It's been fun playing with these guys. It's just been great.”
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