NCAA BK

MVC's Bluejays fly into Big Dance

Recapping the Bluejays' Big Dance-clinching win.
Recapping the Bluejays' Big Dance-clinching win.
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ST. LOUIS (AP)

A day after Illinois State beat a ranked opponent for the first time since 1987, the Redbirds just missed making it two Top 25 victims in two days.

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Doug McDermott had 33 points and Antoine Young scored eight of his 14 in overtime in No. 25 Creighton's 83-79 victory in the Missouri Valley Conference championship game on Sunday.

The fourth-seed Redbirds made the Bluejays work for the NCAA tournament bid.

''We've grown as a team,'' said guard Tyler Brown, who had 16 points. ''Everybody stepped their game up a notch or two notches even.

''We know how good we can be.''

Grant Gibbs added a career-high 20 points for second-seeded Creighton (28-5), 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 Illinois State (20-13), which beat top-seeded and 15th-ranked Wichita State in the semifinals, the first two wins by nine and 28 points.

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''To watch them fall that short of just an absolutely amazing accomplishment cuts so deep,'' Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich said. ''I know how disappointed they are. We've kind of flown under the radar all year.

''To fall that short of an NCAA bid is painful beyond words.''

Freshman Nic Moore had 20 points for Illinois State. 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.

Jackie Carmichael added 17 points and nine rebounds for Illinois State, which hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 1998. Jon Ekey added 13 points.

''We became a more close-knit group these last three days,'' Carmichael said. ''We can play with the top teams in the country.''

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.

Brown was the hero in the semifinals, scoring 25 points and making two free throws with 6.4 seconds to go for the go-ahead points in a 65-64 upset of Wichita State.

''If you couldn't tell how badly this team wanted to win this tournament, you must have been eating a lot of popcorn,'' Jankovich said.

But he wants the Redbirds to keep playing, so the NIT doesn't sound so bad.

''I think it's a great honor,'' Jankovich said. ''I think people need to start understanding that.''

McDermott, the conference player of the year, was potent inside and out, making 12 of 18 shots 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.

Creighton led by nine points with 1:15 to go after Josh Jones' fastbreak dunk.

Doug McDermott was named the tournament's most outstanding player and was joined by Echenique and Young on the all-tournament team. Carmichael and Brown made the all-tournament team for Illinois State.

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.

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 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.

Tagged: Illinois, Brown, Creighton, Wichita State, Illinois State, Antoine Young, Gregory Echenique, Jackie Carmichael, Doug McDermott

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