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Missouri Valley Notebook

March 11, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Missouri Valley Notebook

by Alan Rubenstein

Creighton and SIU Survive and Advance

If the first three days of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament are any indication tonight’s championship game between Southern Illinois and Creighton should go down to the wire. This has been one of the most exciting tournaments in recent Valley memory. Four of the first eight games have been one point margins and three others were decided in the last few minutes. Sunday was no different as both Creighton and Southern Illinois were pushed to the verge of elimination by Wichita State and Southwest Missouri State.

The Salukis inched one step closer to their first Valley tournament championship since 1995 by pulling away in the closing minutes of a 64-55 victory over Southwest Missouri State. “Big Game” Jermaine Dearman continued his great postseason play by leading the Salukis with 17 points and five rebounds. Darren Brooks also had a solid game contributing 14 points and 3 boards. The fact that the Salukis were able to win with Kent Williams having an off night says a lot to their growth as a team. Williams finished only 2-8 from the field including 2-7 from three point range.

SIU was able to defeat SMS by using a 10-0 run late in the second half to expand a one point lead to eleven. The win improved SIU record to 24-5, while the Bears dropped to 17-12 and await word from the NIT Sunday. Terrance Mc Gee concluded a great Valley Career by garnering a game high 21 points to go along with four assists. Monwell Randle dominated the Salukis inside once again finishing with nine points and nine rebounds as the Bears out rebounded the Salukis 35-28.

The Salukis will look to avenge last season’s loss to Creighton in the conference championship after the Blue Jays escaped for the second straight night by defeating Wichita State 70-69. With the win, the Blue Jays earned their twenty-seventh victory of the season and will attempt to take their fourth Valley tournament title in five seasons. Sunday was a struggle as Wichita State had a 40-30 lead at the intermission.

The Bluejays outscored the Shockers 12-2 in the first five minutes of the second half to pull within 44-42. Five ties and five changes highlighted the second half before Kyle Korver’s three-point field goal, the 364th of his career, put Blue Jays in front to stay 68-66 at the 1:31 mark. That shot gave Creighton their first lead since four minutes into the game. Korver finished with 19 points, including going 4-9 from three point range as the Blue Jays won for the seventh time in eight games when facing a halftime deficit.

Korver received better support than he did in Saturday’s semifinal win over Indiana State. Five Blue Jays finished in double figures. Larry House had 12, Nate Funk, Brody Deren and Mike Grimes contributed 10 each. As they have all season, Randy Burns and Aaron Hogg led the way with 21 and 12. This was only the second semifinal appearance for WSU since 1991.

Creighton and SIU has become of the premiere mid-major rivalries in the country. They only accrued three valley losses combined to other teams this season and have been the focus of the Valley for the past four seasons.

Monday night’s game should be a war much like the first two were. Creighton is going to have to get off to better starts than they have the first two nights. The Salukis know all about Creighton’s ability to comeback after the Jays recovered from a 12 point halftime deficit in the team’s first meeting. Korver enjoyed perhaps his best game of the season in that one, finishing with 24 points, 11 rebounds and shot 5-9 from beyond the arc. In the second match-up on March 1st, the Salukis limited Korver to ten points on 3-8 shooting. Korver was able to contribute with 13 rebounds. Dearman and Williams dominated the Blue Jays that night by combining for 42 points to take command in the Valley.

SIU was able to control Korver by having Darren Brooks shadow him. Another key Monday night will be three-point shooting. Both teams shot the ball well in the first meeting, but were unable to sustain their prowess from beyond the arc in the second match-up. This game should be no different than the Valley tournament has been up until this point. Nearly every game has been decided in the last few minutes. It will be a battle of the top two offenses in the league and the two teams that have dominated the Valley for the last two seasons.

Based on how they have played it looks like SIU will have the edge going into the game. The Salukis have had tough games in the first two round but were able to pull away to win convincingly. Creighton has won their first two games by one point each. It will likely come down to how well SIU can control Korver, something they did extremely well in the second match-up. Korver will be the best player on the floor, but the Salukis have more firepower. Look for a tight game that will come down to the last possession and the ball in the hands of Korver, Williams or Dearman at the end.


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