Illinois State Humiliates Creighton 73-49

by Matthew Stevens | March 7th, 2009

ST. LOUIS – Both Illinois State and Creighton’s head coaches needed only one word to describe their play Saturday evening.

“Wonderful, how about that,” Redbirds head coach Tim Jankovich said.

Shift to Creighton head coach Dana Altman for the equal and opposite reaction. “Disappointed.”

Illinois State crushed the second-seeded Bluejays 73-49 in the semi-finals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and will get a second chance at the championship after falling last year to Drake.

“I’ve been thinking about it all season, you know. We made it to Sunday last year and it didn’t end right,” ISU junior guard Osiris Eldridge said. “I’m not going to try to let tomorrow end like it ended last year.¬† I’m going to try to do everything in my power to win that game.”

The Redbirds (24-8) turned the beginning of the game into a track meet by sprinting out to a 27-9 lead before the eight-minute mark of the first half.

Illinois State shot an astounding 55 percent from the field and made 13-of-19 three-pointers throughout the game.

“I would say I’m going to call this our best game of the year for sure,” Jankovich said.

Once the shots started falling from everywhere, the ISU effort and intensity on defensive end forced Creighton into its worst offensive output this season.

“I’m most proud of just the effort and the energy and the defensive tenacity and to hold Creighton who is a great offensive team to 27 percent in the field to 40 minutes,” Jankovich said.

Eldridge was simply unstoppable throughout; the Chicago native ended with a game-high 21 points and was 4-for-5 from beyond the three-point arc.

“What I like about today is we didn’t fall into what we usually do, let teams come back.¬† I think we’ve grown from the past to separate ourselves in games and to finish out strong,” Eldridge said.

One of the motivating factors for the Redbirds was Bluejay senior point guard Josh Dotzler statement last week that Creighton was “looking forward to cutting down the nets in St. Louis when we win it.”

Now, Creighton (26-7) will have to watch on CBS either ISU or top-seeded Northern Iowa cut down the nets, take home the championship trophy and the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament when the two match up Sunday at 1 p.m.

“It fired us up a little bit, we’re not going to lie,” ISU senior guard Champ Oguchi said. “We want to be the ones to cut down the nets. ¬†Anything you can use as motivation these days, you know, that’s what we need to do.”

Oguchi ended the game with 18 points on 6-of-8 three-point shooting. The 6-foot-6 guard was forced to watch his teammates in the Scottrade Center stands, as he was ineligible for the 2007-08 season after transferring from Oregon.

“This is a chance for us to make a statement not only in the Valley but across the country to punch our ticket and solidify ourselves as one of the top 65 teams in the country,” Oguchi said.

Not only will the Bluejays have to watch the MVC title game at home but also Altman’s crew will now have an agonizing seven days of waiting until Selection Sunday to see if 26 wins, an RPI ranking of 38 and 9-4 record against the Top 100 will be worthy enough in the eyes of the NCAA Selection Committee.

“We were talking about after the game (that) a couple of teams were in positions like this, and one of them ended up making it to the NCAA Tournament, one of them didn’t,” Dotzler said.

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