By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- Though it hasn't been easy of late, Creighton continues to build momentum at the most crucial time of the season.
Coming off another hard-fought victory, the second-seeded and No. 25 Bluejays continue their quest for a record 11th Missouri Valley Conference tournament title when they face Evansville in Saturday's semifinal in St. Louis.
After winning its final three games of the regular season despite trailing in each of those contests with 3 minutes remaining, Creighton (26-5) held off a late Drake rally to win 68-61 in Friday's quarterfinals. Doug McDermott had 26 points with 10 rebounds and Antoine Young scored 16 as the Bluejays allowed the Bulldogs to cut a 13-point deficit to three with 4:33 remaining before pulling away for fifth consecutive victory that followed a three-game skid.
"We have confidence in each other," said McDermott, who averaged 23.1 points and 8.1 rebounds in the regular season to become the first sophomore to earn MVC player of the year honors. "We just had to keep our cool out there and stick together. We knew good things would happen.
"It's just going to keep building our confidence going into (Saturday). So we've just got to be ready."
The Bluejays might need to rely on that composure Saturday against third-seeded Evansville (16-14), which beat Missouri State 72-64 on Friday.
Creighton went 4 of 22 from 3-point range and posted its lowest point total of the season during a 65-57 loss at Evansville on Feb. 7. The Bluejays avenged that defeat Feb. 21, but needed overtime to beat the Aces 93-92 at home. In the last meeting, Creighton shot 56.9 percent and overcame a 43-point effort from Evansville swingman Colt Ryan and 58.9 percent shooting from the Aces.
"It should be good," said Young, who registered 13 of his 21 points from the free-throw line versus Evansville last week. "We know it's going to be a big challenge for us, but we've got to continue to do what we do."
McDermott, who has averaged 26.3 points in the last four games overall, scored 21 in each of the two meetings with the Aces this season.
While Creighton is looking to return to the tournament championship game for the first time since beating Southern Illinois 67-61 in the 2007 final, Evansville is trying to get back for just the second time ever. The Aces lost 70-61 to the Bluejays in the 1999 finale.
"We're looking forward to the competition," Evansville coach Marty Simmons said. "We're playing a very good basketball team."
The only current league member without an MVC tournament title, Evansville got 20 points from Kenneth Harris and 19 from Ryan on Friday.
Ryan, the MVC's second-leading scorer during the regular season behind McDermott at 20.5 points, has averaged 25.0 on 53.5 percent shooting in six career games versus Creighton. The junior has gone 17 of 38 from 3-point range in those contests.
The winner of this contest faces either top-seeded and No. 15 Wichita State or fourth-seeded Illinois State in Sunday's championship game.
Updated March 3, 2012