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Missouri Valley Quarterfinals Recap

March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Missouri Valley Conference Quarterfinals Recap

Recap by Neal Heston

The quarterfinals didn’t exactly bring the exciting finishes fans were anticipating, given the parity in the conference. But there were still upsets, near upsets and history put in the books as Saturday’s action wrapped up. In preview of the semifinals, there should be a little of what every basketball fan wants. A defensive battle will take place in Sunday’s first contest as the top seeded Southern Illinois Salukis take on Southwest Missouri State. In the second matchup, points shouldn’t be hard to come by as two high-powered offenses face off with UNI taking on Wichita State.

(1) Southern Illinois 93, (9) Evansville 67
Losing to Northern Iowa last Monday didn’t affect the Salukis. They came out with a lot of fire in a 93-67 romp over the Purple Aces. SIU began the contest with a 19-6 advantage, but Evansville wasn’t ready to go packing just yet. Clint Cuffle nailed a jumper to begin a 10-0 run for UE, cutting the Southern Illinois lead to three. Frustrated, the Salukis finally responded to the Purple Ace’s run by outscoring UE 18-9 in the remainder of the half.

Both teams’ offenses were clicking in the second 20 minutes of action, but it was Southern Illinois’ being the better one in this half. The Salukis outscored UE 56-42 in the second frame en route to recording the most lopsided victory in an MVC Tournament game since 1986. Five SIU players found their ways to double-digit point totals, led by 18 apiece from Darren Brooks and Lamar Owen.

“When you come back and play after a loss, you’ve got to be able to bounce back and play harder,” Southern Illinois head coach Matt Painter said after the game. “I’m very pleased with our effort. We played hard for 40 minutes.”

Southern Illinois (25-3) will face Southwest Missouri State in the semifinals Sunday. The two meetings between these two squads this season has gone to the final minute each time, with Southern Illinois winning both by a combined total of eight points.

(5) Southwest Missouri State 84, (4) Creighton 75
SMS earned a spot in tomorrow’s semifinal round by defeating the fourth-seeded Creighton Bluejays in an uncharacteristic fashion. The 84-spot put up by the Bears was the team’s most since scoring 95 at Evansville on Jan. 7. Unfortunately for Creighton, SMS found its offense just in time to spoil the Bluejays’ bid for a third consecutive conference tournament championship.

As in the previous meeting, Creighton stayed strong with SMS in the first half as the Bluejays went into the locker room with a 32-29 advantage. The Bears shot strongly in the second half though and used a 20-7 run at the beginning of the half to pull away with the win. Merrill Andrews and Anthony Shavies each contributed 19 points for the Bears, who improved to 18-13 on the year.

“The first four minutes of the game were key,” SMS head coach Barry Hinson said. “We knew we had to come out strong.”

With the loss, Creighton (20-8) not only loses an opportunity for a third consecutive MVC Tournament championship, but it will now have to settle for the NIT – in all likelihood.

The Bears (18-13) will face top-seeded Southern Illinois in the semifinals Sunday. Previous meetings between these two teams have been dog fights. Neither squad has scored more than 59 points against the other this season.

(2) UNI 68, (10) Illinois State 54
As revenge was gained over Illinois State for defeating UNI on its home court last month, the Panthers also advanced to the semifinal round in the MVC Tournament for the first time since the 1996-97 campaign. Trailing 21-16 midway through the first half, David Gruber hit a jumper that began an 8-0 UNI run. The contest remained a seewsaw battle throughout the rest of the first half, and UNI escaped to the locker room with a 30-26 advantage.

The basket got wider for the Panthers in the second 20 minutes of action, as UNI came out of the break with a 16-4 run. ISU couldn’t cut the gap to less than 10 points from then on and saw its opportunity for a magical tournament run vanish.

“I don’t think the first half was good for any team,” UNI head coach Greg McDermott said. “I think the beginning of the second half made the biggest difference.”

Despite a fractured wrist, Gruber took charge and led the Panthers to victory with 19 points and six boards. Erik Crawford added 13, Ben Jacobson tacked on another 12 and Pete Schmit came off the bench to score 11 for UNI.

Trey Guidry had another remarkable performance for the Redbirds as he led all scorers in the contest with 22 points.

UNI (19-9) will go on to face the Wichita State Shockers in Sunday’s semifinal round. If the contest takes the route of the last matchup between these two teams, fans should be in for an offensive treat. Northern Iowa took the previous meeting in Cedar Falls, 85-80.

(3) Wichita State 63, (6) Drake 57
Nobody knew exactly what to expect in this game as the two squads had split the season series. Drake stunned the Shockers in Wichita at the beginning of the season, but WSU earned revenge in Des Moines near the end of the conference slate. The Shockers avoided the upset in this one though, as they rallied from an early deficit. A young Bulldog squad had an opportunity to close in during the final minute, but missed free throws and turnovers proved costly. Wichita State will move on to the semifinal round against UNI on Sunday. Though the Panthers are seeded higher, the two teams tied for second place in the conference and split the season series.

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