LAHAINA, Hawaii — Ryan Nembhard drove the lane for an authoritative dunk in the closing minutes and scored a career-high 25 points for No. 10 Creighton, who survived a tense second half to beat No. 9 Arkansas 90-87 on Tuesday and advance to the championship game of the Maui Invitational.
Trey Alexander made two free throws 1.9 seconds clear for Creighton, who will play either No. 14 Arizona or No. 17 San Diego State for the title on Wednesday.
The Bluejays (6-0) and the Razorbacks (4-1) played an electrifying second half worthy of a March Madness matchup. Arkansas has made the Elite Eight in consecutive seasons and Creighton made the second round last year after being promoted to the Sweet 16 in 2021.
Ryan Kalkbrenner scored 21 points, Baylor Scheierman 20 and Alexander 12 for the Bluejays, who held a 12-point lead late in the first half.
Anthony Black scored 26 points, Ricky Council IV 24 and Trevon Brazile 17 for the Razorbacks.
There were 10 lead changes and the game was tied 10 times in the second half.
Nembhard made two free throws after the Arkansas bench was called for a technical foul at 13:57 to forge a 53-53 tie. Creighton was in double bonus for the last 13 minutes.
Nembhard, the shortest player on the floor at 6 feet, drove for a dunk and a 79-76 lead with 2:34 to go. Brazile responded with a 3-pointer on the floor next time to tie it at 79.
Kalkbrenner reverse jammed 1:20 left to give the Bluejays a final lead 83-81.
After Scheierman took two free throws for an 87-84 lead with 16 seconds left, Council missed a corner 3 and Nembhard rebounded and was fouled. He made one of two free throws and Black came down the floor and dumped a straight-on-3 to pull Arkansas within one. Alexander then made his two insurance free throws.
Creighton ran up a 12-point lead with 1:43 to go in the first half before the Razorbacks closed with a 6-0 run topped by Trevon Brazile’s thunderous dunk following an alley-oop pass from Anthony Black.
Creighton: The Bluejays’ free-flowing offense produced three players in double figures at halftime: Nembhard with 13 points, Scheierman 11 and Kalkbrenner 10.
Arkansas: This was a huge step forward in the competition for the Razorbacks. They opened the season with easy home wins over North Dakota State, Fordham, and South Dakota State, then beat winless Louisville by 26 points in the opener against Maui.
Creighton will face off against either the Wildcats or Aztecs in another March Madness-worthy match for the title.
Arkansas meets loser SDSU-Arizona for third place.
AP College Basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25