No. 25 Creighton 83, Illinois St. 79
ST. LOUIS (AP)
It was fitting that when it came down to the final snip of the nets, Antoine Young got the honor.
The lone senior starter for No. 25 Creighton stepped up when it counted, scoring eight of his 14 points in overtime as the Bluejays survived Illinois State's bid for a second straight upset with an 83-79 victory in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament final on Sunday.
''We are a team. No single individual brought us to this day,'' said Doug McDermott, the conference player of the year, who led Creighton with 33 points and was selected tournament MVP after scoring the most points ever in the championship game. ''I will remember this season forever.''
Young was 6 for 8 at the free throw line in overtime after going just 2 for 6 in regulation.
''You've got to step up and make plays, you've got to do it,'' Young said during the on-court celebration. ''They're a dangerous team, but we just stuck with it. We just kept fighting and we got it done.''
Grant Gibbs added a career-high 20 points for Creighton, the No. 2 seed, which won the conference tournament for the seventh time in 14 seasons and earned its first NCAA bid since 2007.
The Bluejays were 3-0 against fourth-seeded Illinois State (20-13), which knocked off 15th-ranked and top-seeded Wichita State by a point in the semifinals, the first two by nine and 28 points.
Gibbs' topped his previous best of 12 points, perhaps buying some space for McDermott.
''I knew my stroke was there,'' Gibbs said. ''Coach told me `They're probably going to sag off you so step up and make some shots.'''
Freshman Nic Moore had 20 points for Illinois State, seven in overtime. He drove the length of the court for a layup with 6.5 seconds to go in regulation that forced overtime. Young tried to duplicate that feat on the other end but missed with 2 seconds left and Gregory Echenique missed a tip-in at the buzzer.
''If you couldn't tell how badly this team wanted to win this tournament, you must have been eating a lot of popcorn,'' coach Tim Jankovich said. ''To fall that short of an NCAA bid is painful beyond words.''
The Valley expects to get two NCAA bids, ending a four-year slump in which the conference got one bid each time, with regular season champion Wichita State among the top teams in the nation in the RPI. Illinois State likely will settle for an NIT bid.
''The NIT being the next biggest one, we'll take it,'' Ekey said. ''These last couple days, hopefully we showed everybody that we deserved to be in it.''
McDermott was potent inside and out, going 12 of 18 from the field with three 3-pointers while exhausting an assortment of defenders. He broke the school's season scoring record set in 1968-69 in the first half and put Creighton on his back much of the second half, scoring 17 of the Bluejays' 19 points in one stretch.
The Bluejays led by nine points with 1:15 to go after Josh Jones' fastbreak dunk. Young was 4 for 6 from the line in the final 32 seconds after Illinois State hit three 3-pointers.
Coach Greg McDermott, Doug McDermott's father, became the first Valley coach to win the tournament at two schools. He won in 2004 at Northern Iowa.
''I remember like it was yesterday when I was a fourth-grade kid with my dad on that stage,'' Doug McDermott said. ''Now, I got to win one as a player.''
Creighton won without much from Echenique, who was held to eight points and seven rebounds. Echenique had 20 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in 20 minutes in the semifinal win over Evansville.
Creighton was 3 for 12 from 3-point range in the first half, a day after starting 8 for 11 from long range while building a 19-point lead against Evansville. Illinois State took advantage of the misfires, closing the half on a 15-3 run capped by Tyler Brown's 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds to go that gave it the lead.
Creighton had one basket over the final 6:47 after McDermott's one-handed tip-in made it 27-16. Echenique was on the bench the final 3:11 after getting his second foul.