James buried the thrilling game-winner as time expired and Northern Iowa upset the Bluejays 65-62 on Saturday to snap their 11-game winning streak.
James, who missed Tuesday's win over Southern Illinois to rest his aching body, scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and Seth Tuttle added 13 points for the Panthers (16-9, 6-7 MVC), who handed visiting Creighton (21-3, 11-2) its first loss since late December.
"He makes them from a lot of places," Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said about James. "He got himself to a spot where he was closer to the basket and just felt more comfortable. That was a big play."
The first big play of an unforgettable finale came from Young, who saw his teammates heavily guarded and pulled up from the top of the key to tie it at 62-all.
James dribbled the length of the court, stepped back from the wing and kept his shooting hand in the air after the winner, which sent Panthers fans streaming onto their court.
"Young made a great shot to tie the ball game up, and I just took a quick glance at the clock and seen that we had time to dribble the ball up the court and get a decent shot," James said. "The shot went down."
Young scored 23 points and Doug McDermott, who originally committed to Northern Iowa, had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Creighton.
"We hit a big shot to give ourselves a chance. They hit a big shot to win the game," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
The end was a fitting caper to this back-and-forth contest between these heated Valley rivals.
Northern Iowa opened up a 51-45 lead with 5:21 left. The Panthers reeled off an 11-2 run capped by a Deon Mitchell layup and a 3 from Chip Rank, and McDermott picked up his fourth foul on a charge near the basket.
Young stopped the UNI surge with a three-point play, pulling the Bluejays within a possession with 3:55 left, but Jake Koch's 3 with 1:11 left gave the Panthers a 58-54 lead.
James buried a huge 3 from the corner with 23 seconds left to put Northern Iowa ahead 61-56. Creighton's Jahenns Manigat made it 61-59 on a 3 with 15 seconds left.
James missed a free throw that allowed Young's 3 to tie it and shot just 6 of 14 from the floor. But he hit the one that mattered at the end.
"I'm still in awe of that game. It was so much fun to play," Koch said.
Northern Iowa's Johnny Moran buried a 3 and Rank scooped through heavy traffic, putting the Panthers ahead 39-34 with 14:40 left. They could've gone ahead by seven, which would have been the biggest lead yet for either team, but Young smartly stripped Matt Morrison at the rim.
Ethan Wragge's rushed 3 and bank shot at the end of two sloppy possessions brought Creighton back even at 40-all. McDermott then tipped a loose ball to himself over four Panthers in the paint, converting a three-point play to give the Bluejays a 43-40 lead with 11:02 left.
Creighton finished just 5 of 16 from 3-point range, and nobody but Young and McDermott scored more than eight points.
"We just needed some offense from somewhere else. Antoine and Doug were good," Greg McDermott said. "It was just one of those nights. You play (24) games and they're not all going to be perfect."
Northern Iowa rolled into Valley play with a realistic shot at yet another NCAA tournament berth after wins over Old Dominion, Providence, Iowa and Iowa State in nonconference play. But the Panthers have struggled in Valley play, uncharacteristically struggling to knock down shots.
That probably wouldn't have been an issue if McDermott had stuck around.
Jacobson graciously let McDermott leave when his father Greg left Iowa State for Creighton before Greg's freshman year.
No one could have imagined he would blossom into one of the nation's best players -- and Northern Iowa's student section showed their bitterness by booing McDermott when he touched the ball.
McDermott was as good as ever, shooting 7 of 11 from the floor, but the Panthers hit 11 of their 21 tries from 3 -- including James's dramatic finale.
"It felt good as soon as I let it go," James said. "I used my legs like coach (Jacobson) told me too."
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