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Creighton wins Missouri Valley title, NCAA berth

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Mar 11 2013 09:59:37 AM CDT
Updated On: Mar 10 2013 06:59:22 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS -

Time was running out and Creighton desperately needed one more basket to hold off surging Wichita State on Sunday in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship game.

It didn't go to its All-American, Doug McDermott, and its backup plan worked out just fine.

Guard Jahenns Manigat rolled in a layup with 11.5 seconds left and Malcolm Armstead's fallaway 3-pointer to force overtime went begging at the horn, giving the Bluejays a 68-65 win in what might have been their last Missouri Valley game.

"We're going to celebrate here for a little bit," Manigat said, "and then go back to practice next week and see how far we can take ourselves in the NCAA Tournament."

Manigat scored 16 points, Ethan Wragge came off the bench to contribute 15 points and McDermott added 14. It was the second straight MVC tournament title for Creighton and its 12th overall.

It might also be its last. The Bluejays are rumored to be joining the new Big East Conference on July 1 along with seven former members of the old Big East -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova -- plus Butler and Xavier.

Armstead pumped in a career-high 28 points for the Shockers (26-8), including a 3-pointer with 43.8 seconds left to cap a 10-0 run that cut their deficit to one. But he was left second-guessing his choice to take a 3-pointer under duress with an expiring clock.

"Maybe I should have tried to get a quick layup so we could go two-for-one," Armstead said. "They did a good job switching everything on the last shot."

The Bluejays in general and Manigat in particular also did a good job on their final possession. After a timeout with 21.1 seconds remaining in the game and 13 on the shot clock, Manigat found himself with the ball 30 feet from the basket and the shot clock at seven seconds.

The 6-foot-1 junior from Ottawa, Ontario, worked around his defender on the right wing and curled in his layup, even though Carl Hall got a finger on it before it hit the glass.

"Give Creighton credit," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "They made one more play than we did at the end."

Neither team made many plays early in the game. Each missed its first seven shots, both going 0 of 4 from the 3-point arc. At the second media timeout with 11:39 left in the first half, Creighton led 6-3.

But it heated up behind Wragge, a 6-7 forward who's shooting almost 43 percent from behind the arc. Wragge drilled three straight 3s in a span of 2:35 as the Bluejays opened a 19-7 lead, to the delight of their huge contingent of fans.

"As soon as I get one to go, I'm going to try to get two and three," Wragge said. "It was a good feeling."

Armstead led the Shockers back into contention, rattling off 10 straight points in a 95-second span. Wichita State took a brief lead late in the half before Wragge's 3 gave Creighton a 30-28 halftime edge.

Manigat's 3-pointer with 5:10 left boosted the Bluejays' lead to 60-48. The margin was built without major contributions from McDermott, who torched the Shockers for 41 on March 2 in Creighton's victory that clinched the Valley regular-season title.

McDermott, who still was named the most outstanding player in the tournament, scored just two points in the first half and picked up his third foul early in the second half. While he did have 12 points after halftime, he made just 5 of 13 shots from the floor as Hall, Ehimen Orukpe and Tekele Cotton took turns guarding him.

Grant Gibbs contributed 11 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Bluejays. Hall scored 13 points but was just 4 of 14 from the field for the Shockers. As a team, they were just 23 of 67 from the floor and didn't make a shot in the game's first 6:45.

Both teams expect to hear their name called next Sunday when the NCAA announces its 68-team field. But in what could be their last meeting, it was Creighton that celebrated.

"We definitely had our ups and downs during the season," Bluejays center Gregory Echenique said, "but this is the right way to end it. We're happy, fans are happy ... it's great."

NOTES: Echenique's six blocked shots were an MVC title-game record ... Armstead not only established a career high for points but added four steals, one off his career best. ... The attendance of 16,659 is the second best for a Valley title game in history, trailing only a crowd of 22,012 in 2007.