Kalkbrenner takes over, Bluejays hold off No. 18 UConn 64-62

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
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OMAHA, Neb. – Ryan Kalkbrenner scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half and Creighton held off No. 18 UConn 64-62 after squandering a 16-point lead Wednesday night.

The Bluejays (20-9, 12-6 Big East) won for the seventh time in eight games and clinched a top-five seed and first-round bye in the conference tournament next week.

UConn (21-8, 12-6) lost for the first time in six games and dropped to 0-5 all-time against Creighton.

The Huskies, down 16 late in the first half, outscored the Bluejays 12-3 coming out of the locker room and tied it 48-all when Jalen Gaffney stole Ryan Hawkins’ inbounds pass and went in for a layup with 9:16 to play.

That’s when Kalkbrenner took over. The 7-foot sophomore scored six straight baskets – four of them dunks – and Creighton never let the Huskies go ahead.

None of his dunks was bigger than one off a feed from Alex O’Connell to make it 60-55 with 1:02 to play.

Tyler Polley’s 3-pointer pulled the Huskies to 60-58 with 20 seconds left, and after O’Connell missed two free throws, R.J. Cole drove for a layup to make it 62-60 with seven seconds remaining.

Hawkins got fouled on the inbounds pass and made both free throws with 6.1 seconds left to put the game away.

Arthur Kaluma had all 15 of his points in the first half for Creighton and Hawkins added 13. Kalkbrenner pulled down 10 rebounds to go with his career high-matching 22 points.

Cole led the Huskies with 20 points. Adama Sanogo had 13 points and 16 rebounds, and Tyrese Martin scored 11.

Creighton, coming off a 21-point loss at Providence on Saturday, dictated the pace early with Kaluma scoring 15 of the Bluejays’ first 30 points. He followed his dunk putback of Hawkins’ missed 3-pointer with a 3 from the wing to give his team a nine-point lead and force irate Connecticut coach Dan Hurley to call a timeout.

The Huskies missed their next four shots, and Kaluma’s fast-break dunk and banked-in 3 put the Bluejays up 30-16.

The Huskies shot just 33.3% for the half but scored six straight points before the break to cut the Bluejays’ lead to 34-24.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies had their worst-shooting first half since they made just 28.6% in a 59-55 loss to Creighton on Feb. 1. They improved to 48% in the second half, but it wasn’t good enough to come all the way back from a big deficit.

Creighton: The team played its second game without injured point guard Ryan Nembhard and knocked off a Top 25 opponent for the fourth time this season. After winning both meetings with UConn, the Bluejays own the tiebreaker over the Huskies for third place in the Big East heading into their regular-season finales.

UP NEXT

UConn hosts DePaul on Saturday.

Creighton hosts Seton Hall on Saturday.