The Creighton Bluejays, ranked 25th in the nation, shoot for their 11th Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title this afternoon as they clash with the Illinois State Redbirds at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Jays, who have more tournament titles in the MVC than any other program and last hoisted the trophy in 2007, have now won six straight games since experiencing a three-game slide in early February. On Saturday, the second- seeded squad beat up on Evansville, 99-71, in order to advance to the championship game against fourth-seeded Illinois State.
The Redbirds, a fourth-time winner in this event, began the 2012 version with a 54-42 victory over Northern Iona on Friday and then stunned top-seeded and 15th-ranked Wichita State yesterday, 65-64, which now means the MVC could possibly get three teams into the NCAA Tournament depending on the outcome of today's matchup.
In terms of the all-time series between the teams, Illinois State still maintains a 40-28 edge over Creighton, but the Redbirds failed to have any success against the Jays this season. The Bluejays won both meetings during the regular season -- an 87-78 victory on the road in January and then a 102-74 thrashing at home the first of February.
A pair of free throws by Tyler Brown with just 6.4 seconds remaining pushed the Redbirds into the win column as they upset Wichita State on Saturday. Brown finished with 25 points to pace Illinois State, while Jackie Carmichael turned in a double-double consisting of 12 points and a team-best 11 rebounds. Nic Moore accounted for another 12 points as the Redbirds found a way to survive a mere 33.9 percent shooting from the floor and 7-of-21 behind the three-point line. It certainly helped that the team made good on all but two of 22 free-throw attempts and held the Shockers to only 34.9 percent from the field as well. Now through a total of 32 games, Carmichael continues to be a steady force in the paint for the group with a double-double consisting of 13.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per outing. Brown is now up to 13.0 ppg to help out in the scoring department, his 42.4 percent accuracy behind the three- point line being the top mark on the team.
Creighton opened the meeting with Evansville on a 7-0 run and led by as many as 22 points in the first half, en route to the dominating effort on Saturday evening in the other semifinal contest. The Jays shot not only 60.0 percent from the floor in the first half but also 8-of-11 behind the three-point line, finishing the game at 60.4 percent from the field overall. Gregory Echenique led the way for the offense with 20 points, pacing five players in double figures, while adding nine rebounds and three blocked shots in just 20 minutes of action. Doug McDermott also had a short outing as he tallied 14 points and nine boards, followed by Antoine Young with 13 points and six assists. Reserves Josh Jones and Will Artino contributed 12 and 10 points, respectively, the former connecting on 4-of-5 beyond the arc. McDermott has now played more than 1,000 minutes this season and with that time he has generated 22.9 ppg and 8.2 rpg, numbers which have him being mentioned as a potential all-America. Young is good for another 12.4 ppg and has handed out 143 assists, second only to Grant Gibbs who has delivered 163 for the program.