Jays cut down nets in St. Louis

By Demario Smith-Phipps

Creighton University won its 12th Missouri Valley conference championship in St. Louis March 10. After a fiercely competitive tournament, the Jays won their third back-to-back tourney championship in school history and were awarded the MVC bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The preliminary March 7 play-in games set the tone for what turned out to be defensive and hard-fought weekend.

Drake University bested the Beadley Braves 81-66 in the tournament’s first game. Drake scored 37 points off the bench and connected on 12 3-pointers.


Following the Braves win, the No. 10 Salukis faced No. 7 Missouri State in the tournament’s second game. Bears freshman Marcus Marshall was aggressive in the lane and shot 6-8 from the freethrow line. The Missouri State assault from the freethrow line (16-22) afforded them a 61-53 victory.

Saluki coach Barry Hinson said despite his team’s recent improved play, he was worried about team members’ mentalities.

“There is one thing I was concerned about with this team — that is how would we respond to adversity,” he said. “We had guys pointing fingers and all.”

Early said he was proud of what he and his fellow seniors helped build, and he is confident in the SIU basketball program’s future.

“Starting 1-11 (in conference), we could have given up any time, but we kept fighting, and we finished strong,” Early said. “It’s hard looking at the season knowing it’s over. They’ll have a great year next year, I’m sure.”

Drake lost 65-53 against No. 1 Creighton during the tournament’s second night. The Bulldogs played the Jays close for most of the contest, but junior forward Doug McDermott and forward Will Artino’s combined efforts overcame the Bulldogs. McDermott led all scorers with 23 points and Artino added 14 points off the bench as Creighton defeated Drake, 65-53.

Saturday’s second featured Indiana State and University of Evansville. Both star guards — UE senior Colt Ryan and INS junior Jake Odum — struggled offensively during the game as neither were able to score double- digitpoints.TheSycamoresoutlasted the Purple Aces 51-50. The game was ultimately determined on the last play, when the Aces caught a long inbound pass near the basket but the attempted shot was blocked as time expired.


The third Saturday contest paired Missouri State and No. 2 Wichita State. Behind freshman Marcus Marshall’s 25 points, the Bears played the Shockers tight to halfway through the second half. WSU’s length and depth proved to be the tipping point in the game, as the Shockers won 69-59.

The last matchup Saturday put the No. 3 Northern Iowa Panthers against the No. 6 Illinois State Redbirds. The Panthers were hot early, but a late first half rally helped pace the Redbirds past UNI, 73-65. ISU seniors Jackie Carmichael and Tyler Brown accounted for 43 of the team’s total points.

Wichita State and Creighton used second-half rallies to overcome their opponents in the semi-final round. The Shockers got off to a 13-0 lead against ISU and Wichita State was able to coast their hot start to a 66-51 victory. The Jays dominated offensively against the Sycamores early and won handedly, 64-43.

The Championship game Mar. 10, between No. 1 Creighton and No. 2 Wichita State was hotly contested from the start. The defensive intensity of both teams stifled the offenses as the Jays started the game 0-8 shooting and the Shockers began 0-7. CU center Gregory Echenique and forward Ethan Wragge played well despite teammate Doug McDermott’s off day shooting the ball. Wragge knocked down four 3-pointers off the bench and Echenique blocked six shots on the defensive end for the Jays in a 68-65 win. Shockers guard Malcolm Armstead scored a career-high 28 points in the losing effort.

The Chicago Tribune has reported that the 2012 MVC champion Creighton will join the new Big East basketball conference in the 2013-14 season, a decision that will be made later this week. If the school does decide to change conferences, it would be the first change of membership for the MVC since 1996 when Tulsa left.

Demario Phipps-Smith can be reached at [email protected] or 536-3311 ext. 256.