ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Although Creighton jumped out to a big lead early, Khyri Thomas believed his team would have to overcome adversity to win Wednesday night.
He was right.
Thomas had a career-high 24 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, Martin Krampelj added a career-high 17 points and Creighton beat No. 20 Northwestern 92-88 in a Gavitt Tipoff Games matchup.
"Our guys fought," Thomas said. "That's what we preach. Just fight, be tough and be the better men."
The Wildcats rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit to take the lead in the second half, but couldn't maintain the momentum as Creighton answered the run and took the lead for good with 14 minutes to go.
"You score 88 points, you should be able to win," Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. "We've got to be better on the defensive end."
Law scored 12 straight Northwestern points early in the second half to lead a furious comeback from a 51-43 halftime deficit. Included in that run was a four-point play 3 minutes into the half to put the Wildcats on top 56-55 -- their first lead since early in the first half.
"We got rolling early and like I expected, they kind of withstood our fury and were right back in the game at halftime," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "Just really proud of my team."
THE BIG PICTURE
Creighton: The Bluejays scored 109 points in their previous game against Alcorn State and were on a pace for 120 or more in racing out to a 44-29 lead 15 minutes into the game. But after Northwestern picked up its defensive intensity, they managed just 11 points over the next 8 minutes in losing the big lead. The players, though, responded and reclaimed control.
"We're a hard team to guard, they're a hard team to guard, and that's why you saw such an entertaining game," McDermott said. "It's not like our defenses are awful."
Northwestern: The Wildcats are coming off their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season and were ranked in the AP preseason poll for the first time. But Wednesday night showed that nothing is going to come easy this season just because expectations are high -- especially if they don't play with the same intensity on the defensive end as last season.
"This was an opportunity to show people what we're about," McIntosh said. "We did the opposite. It's disappointing."
Said Law: "We have to learn from this and get better."
Although they don't have a traditional inside game, the Bluejays outscored Northwestern 48-26 in the paint.
"Our ability to dominate inside is a little different than most teams," McDermott said. "We spread you out because of our ability to shoot it. You don't want to leave Marcus or Khyri standing, so that opens up driving lanes and you get to the paint and that makes things happen."
Creighton senior Toby Hegner went down in the first half with a high ankle sprain and was on crutches at the end of the game.
Northwestern wasn't overly impressive in wins over Loyola (Md.) and Saint Peter's to open the season, so the loss figures to drop them out of the Top 25 in the next poll.
Creighton is 12-1 against teams from the Big Ten since November 2011. The Bluejays had four wins over teams ranked in the Top 25.
Creighton: The Bluejays face No. 23 UCLA on Monday night in the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City.
Northwestern: The Wildcats face La Salle on Saturday in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn.