No. 25 Creighton routs Evansville 99-71 in semis
By R.B. FALLSTROM
ST. LOUIS (AP) Evansville guard Colt Ryan found the Creighton Bluejays defense a little tougher this time around.
Ryan, who scored a career-high 43 points in a loss to Creighton 11 days ago, managed just 13 on Saturday as the second-seeded Bluejays rolled to a 99-71 win over Evansville in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
The third-seeded Purple Aces (16-15) must hope for a postseason invitation after enduring their second-worst defeat of the season.
Ryan, who hit 17 of 24 shots in a 93-92 overtime loss in Omaha on Feb. 21, said he simply wasn't able to get untracked against a Creighton defense intent on slowing him down.
"A couple of shots didn't fall for me early on," Ryan said. "But it wasn't about me trying to go out and score as many as I could."
Ryan had just two points in the first 14:41. By the time he made his second basket, the Bluejays held a 33-23 lead. He missed nine of 12 attempts in the game.
"The shots just weren't falling for any us for a while there," Evansville's Kenneth Harris said. "Their defense was tough. Once we got something going, they would just shut us down."
Creighton coach Greg McDermott centered his game plan around keeping Ryan in check.
"We felt like we had a little more depth so we could keep fresh guys on Colt Ryan," McDermott said.
Harris, a St, Louis native, led the Aces with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Denver Holmes added 11 points.
Creighton (27-5) shot 60.4 percent from the field and hit 52.2 percent from 3-point range.
The Blue Jays, who will take on fourth-seeded Illinois State (20-12) in Sunday's championship game, hit eight of their first 10 3-pointers on the way to a 41-27 with 2:23 left in the half.
Creighton led 49-30 at the break and stretched the advantage to 65-42 six minutes into the second half.
Bluejays center Gregory Echenique had 20 points and nine rebounds to lead the way. Doug McDermott, the MVC Player of the Year, had 14 points and nine rebounds. Antoine Young chipped in 13 points. Josh Jones had 12 points and Will Artino added 10 points.
The Bluejays used their size and muscle to outrebound Evansville 43-17.
"We just didn't play much defense," Harris said. "You can't give up points like we did and expect to win."
Creighton hit 60 percent from the field in the first half.
"They were hard to guard in all aspects. We struggled with guarding the ball, we struggled with guarding the post," Evansville coach Marty Simmons said. "They beat us up on the boards as well."
The Aces fell behind 7-0 before reeling off 10 unanswered points to take a three-point lead. A short jumper from Jaylon Moore pushed the lead to 16-14 before the Bluejays broke loose.
Nevertheless, Simmons and his players believe they deserve a berth in the NIT or another postseason tournament. Evansville beat Missouri State 72-64 in a quarterfinal game Friday behind Harris' 20 points.
"We're not ready for the season to end yet," Ryan said.
Updated March 3, 2012