Missouri State held Creighton to just two field goals in the final 11:50, defeating the Bluejays 60-50, and earning itself a spot in Sunday’s State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship game.
Top-seeded Missouri State improved to 25-7 on the season with its fifth straight win in the series, while fifth-seeded Creighton dropped to 19-14 with the loss. The Bears will advance to Sunday’s 1:05 pm championship game against the winner of today’s second semifinal between Wichita State and Indiana State.
Creighton got strong production from their bench to take a 22-16 lead midway through the first half. Kenny Lawson Jr., who scored 18 on Friday, had a massive tip-dunk and Josh Jones and Darryl Ashford knocked down three-pointers as Creighton put together a 10-2 surge. The Jays held onto their lead late in the first half, and Antoine Young fed Doug McDermott for a tip-in just before the buzzer. McDermott led CU with seven points and six rebounds in the first half, while Lawson had six points and provided a spark off the bench. MSU was led by six points from Nafis Ricks in the opening 20 minutes.
Jahenns Manigat got Creighton off to a good start out of the locker room, with a three-pointer and circus shot jumper to beat the shot clock, and the Jays took their largest lead of the game at 37-29 with 16:50 to go. But the Bears fought back, riding the play of Kyle Weems, Jermaine Mallett and Adam Leonard to answer with a 16-5 run and take their first lead of the second half at 43-42 with 10:07 to go. After two free throws from CU’s Gregory Echenique, the Bears answered with a three-pointer by Mallett and go up four and steadily pulled away from the free throw line. Creighton trailed by more than six throughout the final five minutes, scoring a total of three points in its next 12 possessions.
Lawson led Creighton with 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. McDermott and Echenique also grabbed seven boards. The Jays shot 38.8 percent from the floor and won the board battle, 35-34. Creighton was also 5-for-6 at the charity stripe.
MSU landed four men in double-figures, keyed by 18 points and 11 rebounds by Mallett. Weems had 15 points and seven boards, while Ricks had 13 points and Leonard 10. MSU shot 37.0 percent for the day and were 17-of-25 from the line.
Creighton would have just two field goals in the final 11:50, as Missouri State pulled away in similar fashion to its game-ending 11-0 run that allowed it to sneak past eighth-seeded Southern Illinois in Friday’s quarterfinals by two points.
Creighton will wait eight days to learn its fate as it strives for a 14th straight postseason bid. The Jays had an RPI of 122 entering Saturday’s contest.