Bluejays win after losing in semis last year

Updated: March 31, 2004, 2:45 AM ET
Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. -- The Creighton Bluejays put it all together against UNLV in the WNIT title game.

Laura Spanheimer scored 20 points, and Christy Neneman added 17 points and nine rebounds to lead Creighton to a 73-52 victory Tuesday night. The Bluejays (24-9) won the title a year after losing to Auburn in the semifinals.

UNLV (26-8) suffered its worst loss in 38 games, since a 74-36 defeat to Colorado State late last season. The 21-point margin was the largest in the seven-year history of the WNIT.

"Heck no, we couldn't have played any better," said Creighton's Dayna Finch, who scored 16 points and matched Spanheimer with four 3-pointers.

"We put everything together at the right time," Finch said. "It's a great thing for our program and something we can take pride in the rest of our lives."

Neneman, who averaged 17.6 points and 7.8 points in the WNIT, was selected the tournament MVP.

The Bluejays, as they have all season, pressed the entire game. They forced 16 turnovers and, just as important, seemed to break the Lady Rebels' spirit.

"We wore them down," Creighton coach Jim Flanery said. "They didn't want the pace of the game to be what it was."

Sheena Moore, who led UNLV with 21 points, said she and her teammates shouldn't use fatigue as an excuse even though they played five games in 11 days. Creighton played five games in 12 days, but had two days' rest since its semifinal win over Richmond. UNLV had one day of rest after beating Iowa State in the semis.

"Every team that's playing this deep into March is tired now," Moore said. "As a team, we didn't leave it on the floor and they did. We didn't come out with as much energy. It was evident."

Creighton outrebounded UNLV 41-31 and held the Lady Rebels to 38.5-percent shooting from the field. UNLV had been eighth nationally in rebounding margin and had outrebounded its previous four WNIT opponents by an average of 11.

Creighton outrebounded the Lady Rebels 17-10 on the offensive end and outscored them 13-6 on second-chance baskets.

"I kept noticing (Neneman) going to the boards all night," UNLV coach Regina Miller said. "She was relentless. We didn't keep them on their back."

Each of the Lady Rebels' four previous games went down to the final minute, and their margin of victory in those games was a combined 14 points.

There would be no drama in the final.

Creighton led 17-4 after Finch hit the first of her four 3-pointers to cap a 15-2 run.

"It was downhill after that," Moore said.

The Lady Rebels got no closer than six points the rest of the way. Creighton led by as much as 29 points in the second half.

"They were down at half in a lot of their WNIT games, so we didn't want to put ourselves in position where they could come back," Finch said. "We knew they were good down the stretch. I'm glad we put them away."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press