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Missouri Valley Notebook

February 26, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Missouri Valley Notebook

by Alan Rubenstein

Bracket Busting Weekend for the Valley

The inaugural Bracket Buster event was a resounding success as the Valley finished with a sparkling 4-0 record. The Valley was the only conference to finish 4-0 in the Bracket Buster. Creighton and Southern Illinois were two of the marquee match-ups in Bracket Buster Saturday and both teams were rewarded with home games on ESPN2. Illinois State and Northern Iowa would play in the relative Bolivian (to quote Mike Tyson) of ESPN Plus with road games at Marshall and Louisiana Tech, respectively.

Creighton kicked off Bracket Buster Saturday by welcoming Fresno State to Omaha. The game was exactly what ESPN had in mind when the Bracket Buster was conceived. The game was competitive throughout as neither team held a lead bigger than seven or eight points.

Kyle Korver broke his own school record for three pointers in a season with 105 and also moved into fifth place in Creighton history in career points. He finished with 27 points including going 7-15 from beyond the arc and had five rebounds and three assists. Korver’s day led the way in Creighton’s 67-66 win. Korver set the tone early by hitting 5-9 from downtown in the first half as the Bluejays led 35-33 at the half. The key to the game was a 20-4 Creighton run about halfway through the second half during which the Blue Jays held Fresno without a field goal for nearly nine minutes.

The Bulldogs had their chances in the second half, but Creighton was able to hold on. Mike Grimes’ 11 and Brody Deren’s 10 helped support Korver. Damen Jackson’s three point miss with less than five seconds remaining clinched the Creighton victory. Jonathon Woods lay-in at the buzzer gave the Bulldogs their final points of the afternoon. Southwest Missouri State is waiting for the Blue Jays as Creighton visits Springfield in a game matching two of the Valley’s top three teams. SMS will be out to avenge their loss in Omaha earlier this season in a game that saw Creighton rally from a 17-point deficit to win in overtime.

The second game on Bracket Buster Saturday featured Southern Illinois hosting head coach Bruce Weber’s alma mater, Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Stetson Hariston’s tip in at the buzzer set off a frenzied crowd and gave the Salukis a 66-64 victory. The officials had to work their way through the crowd after Hairston’s heroics to observe the replay. After determining that Hairston’s tip in came before the buzzer, the Salukis gained a key non-conference win against the leader of the Horizon league.

After falling behind 12-5, the Salukis went on a 9-0 run to get back into the game. They eventually took a 41-29 lead into intermission, and expanded it to 47-31 early in the second half. The Salukis seemed to be in control but the Panthers had other ideas. Using a full court press, UWM got back into the game with a 21-5 run to tie it at 52 with eight minutes remaining. The next eight minutes was a dog fight, both teams had their chances before Hairston tipped in the Darren Brooks runner to win it.

After starting out the season 1-15, Illinois State finally seems to have found a rhythm. The ‘Birds win kept the Valley perfect by getting a road win at Marshall. ISU has now won five of their last eight. After taking a 27-22 lead to the break, the Redbirds outscored Marshall 16-5 at the outset of the second half. A late rally by Marshall fell short as Greg Alexander hit a key jumper late to provide some cushion. Alexander finished with 21 points. The victory over Marshall was ISU’s first away from Redbird arena this season.

Northern Iowa entered the Bracket Buster similar to Illinois State. The Panthers were struggling and having a disappointing season at 8-15. Traveling to Lafayette for a match-up with the Bulldogs was a daunting task. Louisiana Tech had entered the week with a seven game winning streak before Rice took some of the bite out of the Bulldogs with a 76-71 victory.

Although it was the Bulldogs that came into Bracket Buster Saturday hot, it was the Panthers that lit up the scoreboard. Ben Jacobson led four Panthers in double figures with 17 as Northern Iowa shot 51 percent from the field including 45 percent from three point range in the victory. The win was Northern Iowa’s second straight on the road after losing ten in a row away from the UNI Dome.

UNI hit nine three pointers on the night and held LA Tech to 28.6 percent from beyond the arc to cap the Valley Valley’s 4-0 sweep of Bracket Buster Saturday. David Gruber, Matthew Schneiderman and Ryan Paulsen all contributed to the victory. Gruber capped off an efficient night with 15 points and nine rebounds in only 14 minutes due to foul trouble. Paulsen scored 12 on 4-5 from three point range and Schneidermann contributed 15 points and seven rebounds.

Valley Notes

After their match-up with SMS on Wednesday night, the Bears will travel to Carbondale on Saturday night for a pivotal game with Southern Illinois that should decide the winner of the Valley’s regular season title. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Net at 8pm. With three games remaining in the regular season, SIU and Creighton continue to lead the Valley with Southwest Missouri and Wichita State two games back.

Southern Illinois and Creighton both have a chance to finish the season unbeaten at home. The Salukis win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee extended their home court winning streak to 25, while Creighton has not lost at home since last season’s final home game against Drake. If just one of them finishes the season unbeaten at home, it would mark the third consecutive season a Valley team finishes the season with an unbeaten home record.

Creighton – The Bluejays schedule should help their seeding tremendously when the Brackets are announced in three weeks. They have posted a 5-1 record in six games this season against teams currently in first or second place in their league. The lone loss being a 75-73 set back at Xavier. Included in those games were victories over BYU and Notre Dame, who are both in the top 20 in the RPI. Korver continues his assaults on the Valley record books. His 347 career treys rank him first all time and with 105 three point field goals on the season, Korver can next aim for Southern Illinois’ Troy Hudson’s 134 for a season in 1997.

Southern Illinois – The Salukis 25-game home court winning streak is the third longest in school history. The longest was a 30-game streak from March 5, 1965 to December 9, 1968. SIU continues to be lights out from long distance. The Salukis have shot 49 percent from three point range in their last seven games. Stetson Hairston and Bryan Turner have particularly been hot. Hairston has made 11 of his last 16, while Turner has made 11-13. Overall, SIU ranks near the top nationally in three-point shooting at 41 percent. Kent Williams moved past Ashraf Amaya and Mike Glenn last week into second in career scoring with 1,908 career points. Hairston and Darren Brooks continue to be key cogs in the Saluki machine. Brooks (12.9 ppg) has scored 20 or more points five times and leads SIU in steals and blocked shots while Hairston (12.0 ppg) is shooting 42 percent from three-point range and leads the team in assists.

Southwest Missouri State and Wichita State continue to reach milestones that they have not reached in quite a few seasons. With an 11-4 Valley Mark the Bears have matched their conference starts from 1991 and 1992. They also have a 6-3 road record, which is their best in seven years. If you want to point to a turning point in the Bears season, December 29th would be a good turning point. Tamarr Maclin and Kellen Easley were inserted into the lineup that night and since then, SMS has posted a 12-4 record.

Wichita State – The Shockers meanwhile have had a season to remember on their own. Their 11 league victories are the most they have had since 1998. Their next conference win will ensure their most successful valley season since the 1983 team went 17-1 behind Antoine Carr, Xavier McDaniel and Cliff Livingston. Their 16 wins are the most they have recorded in current coach Mark Turgeon’s tenure in Central Kansas. Aaron Hogg, who has really led the Shockers lately, is the leading candidate for Valley Newcomer of the year and was awarded as the most recent Valley player of the week. Hogg is averaging 15.9 PPG and scored a season high 27 points in the Shockers upset of Creighton last week.

The Valley is hitting the home stretch with each team having three games this week before the finales next Monday night. Then it’s on to St. Louis for Arch Madness convening a week from Friday March 7th with the 7-10 seeds before the remainder of the Valley teams begin post season action the next day.

     

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