Sunday , Mar , 04 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Bluejays and Salukis battle for MVC title

St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) – In a matchup that everyone hoped to see,
the 11th-ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois Salukis will battle
the second-seeded Creighton Bluejays in the championship game of
the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

Creighton has won the MVC Tournament title nine times, the most of
any league member. The Bluejays, who last captured the crown two seasons ago,
earned the right to play in tonight’s game by beating 10th-seeded Indiana
State in the quarterfinal round (59-38) and third-seeded Missouri State in the
semifinals (75-58).

As for Southern Illinois, it has won 13 straight games and owns a stellar
27-5 overall record. The Salukis, who have captured five conference
tourney crowns, beat Bradley last season to capture the title. They knocked
off ninth-seeded Drake in Friday’s quarterfinal round by a 71-59 margin,
and that effort was followed by a 53-51 thriller over fourth-seeded Bradley
last night.

Creighton owns a 41-35 series lead over Southern Illinois, but the Salukis
have won the last eight meetings.

Creighton guard Nate Funk, the Preseason MVC Player of the Year, picked the
ideal time to have his best game of the year, as he scored a season-high 33
points against Missouri State on Saturday. Funk shot 10-of-15 from the floor,
including 3-of-6 from three-points range, and he nailed all 10 of his free
throws as well. Nick Porter added 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Anthony
Tolliver pitched in 13 points. The Bluejays finished that contest with a 28-18
advantage in points from the foul line and a 37-30 rebounding edge. Funk is
scoring 17.5 ppg this season, and Tolliver is second on the roster with his
13.3 ppg. Porter (10.5 ppg) and Dane Watts (10.0 ppg) add balance to the
lineup.

Jamaal Tatum is scoring 14.8 ppg on 41.8 percent shooting from three-point
range, and he is the go-to guy at the offensive end for Southern Illinois.
Randal Falker is another productive performer, as he is posting 12.8 ppg on
60.9 percent shooting from the field to go along with 7.6 rpg and 69 blocked
shots. The third and final double-digit scorer is Matt Shaw, as he is netting
11.4 ppg. Shaw was the hero in Saturday’s victory over Bradley, as his tip-in
with 3.2 seconds remaining proved to be the difference. Tatum nailed 4-of-5
three-pointers en route to 20 points in that clash, and Shaw tallied five
points. Southern Illinois shot a lowly 34.6 percent from the floor, but the
club was able to limit Bradley to 35.6 percent efficiency.

CREIGHTON SILLINOIS