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Creighton Wins MVC Tournament
- Updated: March 4, 2012
In a game for the ages, the Bluejays punched their ticket to the big dance with an 83-79 victory over Illinois State.
The Creighton Bluejays and Illinois State Redbirds met with not only the Arch Madness Championship on the line, but with an automatic bid into the big dance, the NCAA tournament, up for grabs. The Jays sent out a starting lineup of Grant Gibbs, Jahenns Manigat, Antoine Young, Valley POY Doug McDermott, and Gregory Echinique to face off against the Redbirds starters of Tyler Brown, Nic Moore, John Wilkins, Jon Ekey, and Jackie Carmichael. Gibbs got things going for Creighton with a put-back layup before Tyler Brown hit a 3 for the Redbirds. Echenique followed for the Jays with a basket in the paint, ISU’s John Wilkins answered with another 3 and we were off to the races. The Creighton crowd was amped up as Echenique got in the paint for a dunk at the 16:30 mark in the first half and at the first media timeout Creighton led 8-6. Valley player of the year Doug McDermott didn’t waste any time getting into a rhythm and scored 10 consecutive points for the Bluejays including two 3 pointers and finished the half with 12 points. The Redbirds, for the most part, kept up with Creighton as Doug went on his run behind 5 points from Tyler Brown. At the 11:28 mark in the first half, Creighton’s lead was 19-16 and they had a 9-5 rebound advantage. The lead was extended to 7 with eight minutes to play and from there Creighton started to pick up the intensity as they were in the midst of an 8-0 run covering over four and a half minutes. Illinois State went on their own run, a 15-3 one to close out the half, aided by a flagrant technical called against Echenique (His 2nd foul, sending him to the bench for the rest of the half). With that run, the Jays lead disappeared as Illinois State had a 31-30 advantage going into halftime. The Redbirds three point shooting kept them in the game all half as they shot 50% (5-10) from beyond the arc. Creighton dominated the boards 22-13 in the half but was just 3-12 from 3 point range and made just 1 of 4 free throw attempts.
Early on in the second half, the Redbird’s Tyler Brown slammed home an alley-oop and was called for a technical (hanging on the rim). Both teams exchanged baskets over the next few minutes and we were all tied at 37 with 15:53 to go in the game. The teams were neck and neck the whole way and at the 11:34 mark ISU had regained the lead 45-43. At that point in the game, there had been 4 ties and 7 lead changes. McDermott had another run where he scored 10 points in a row for Creighton, bringing him up to 24 points with 8 minutes still left to play while Creighton’s bench, which is usually a strength of the team, had just 3 points to show for at the 3rd media timeout of the 2nd half. McDermott was willing his team to victory, as he was just about the only Creighton player that was consistently effective against the Redbirds. With 2 minutes to play the score was tied at 60, and this game was shaping up to be one for the ages. Creighton had a 1 point lead (63-62) and the ball with 23.2 seconds left as the shot clock was turned off. ISU fouled and Antoine Young sunk 1 of 2 free throws before Tyler Brown drove to the basket for the Redbirds and tied the game at 64. Grant Gibbs sunk two free throws for Creighton and Illinois State would get another chance to either tie or take the lead with 11 seconds left. Nic Moore took the ball coast to coast for the Redbirds, got to the basket, his layup was good, and we were all tied at 66 with just 6.5 left. A layup by Antoine Young was no good and Echenique’s put back attempt didn’t fall either as time expired and the game was sent into overtime.
Creighton controlled the tip to start OT and Grant Gibbs, who had an impressive game, hit a 3 to get the scoring started. The Jays jumped out to a 5 point lead after the first two minutes in overtime, 71-66, and never looked back. A breakaway dunk by Josh Jones, his first points of the night, emphatically put the Jays up by 9 with under a minute to play. ISU was able to hit a few 3′s as time was winding down and got within 3, but Creighton used solid free throw shooting by Antoine Young to stay ahead and punch their ticket to the big dance with an 83-79 victory. McDermott ended with 33 points on 12-18 shooting to lead the Jays, followed by Grant Gibbs who had 20. Antoine Young also reached double digits with 14. For Illinois State, Nic Moore led the team with 20 and was joined by Jackie Carmichael (17), Tyler Brown (16), and Ekey (13) in double digits. The game had 9 ties and 14 lead changes as Creighton won the rebound battle 42-33. The All-Tournament team included the Player of the Tournament, Doug McDermott, Antoine Young, and Gregory Echenique for Creighton and Jackie Carmichael and Tyler Brown from Illinois State.
I got a chance to talk with Doug McDermott after the game and asked him what this win means for the team and how the momentum of winning will carry into the NCAA tournament and he said, “It’s huge. It’s huge for our confidence. We knew coming in here that we believed in each other, it just feels so special right now being able to celebrate with my best friends here. It’s just amazing.” I asked Doug about the big game he had and if there was anything different about his approach today or if he was just in a zone. His reply was, “I was just feelin’ it. I knew I had to step up on the big stage. It feels really good to come out with a win. My teammates have been unselfish all year and they recognized I was feelin’ it so I gotta give them a bunch of credit.”
Before the game started I talked with two young Creighton fans who were watching Doug warm up. I asked them, “If you got the chance to ask Doug one thing what would it be?” They told me that they wanted to know if Doug called his coach “Dad” or if he just called him “coach”. Doug got a good laugh out of the question and replied, “Oh I try not to say Dad or Coach I just try to get his attention some other way so it’s pretty funny how it all works out.” After this huge win over Illinois State it’s safe to say that the McDermotts, as well as all of the other Creighton coaches and players can all be called the same thing…”Champions”.
Photo Courtesy of Jim Range
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