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Updated: Tuesday, March 11, 2003 12:45 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(19) Creighton 80, Southern Ill 56
CREIGHTON BLUEJAYS
Creighton Bluejays
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SOUTHERN ILLINOIS SALUKIS
Southern Illinois Salukis
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ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- After winning 24 games and the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season crown, Southern Illinois may have put itself on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.

The Salukis struggled in their worst performance of the season in the final of the MVC tournament, falling 80-56 to 19th-ranked Creighton, which earned its fifth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.

"Hopefully, this one game won't change the mind of the selection committee and we'll be in good shape come Sunday afternoon," Southern Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "We'll go home, take a couple days off, come back Friday and get ready for our next tournament game."

Southern Illinois (24-6) beat Creighton on March 1 as part of a seven-game winning streak. But it could not overcome 16 percent shooting (5-of-32) in the first half of this contest.

"I'm a little worried (about making the NCAA Tournament)," Salukis guard Kent Williams admitted. "We came out here to take pressure off us, so we could relax this week. Yeah, it's a tough ending. ... All we can do now is sit back and let others decide."

The Salukis allowed 10 points before getting on the board on a pair of free throws by Sylvester Willis five minutes into the game. Brad Korn's jumper 1:43 later was Southern Illinois' first basket and cut the deficit to 14-4.

"We came out flat, all of us did," Southern Illinois forward Jermaine Dearman said. "We weren't really up for it and I don't know why. They came out running hard and before you knew it, we were down. They did everything they needed to do tonight. They were the better team today."

Southern Illinois missed its first 11 shots before Korn's basket.

Creighton (29-4) went on an 8-0 run to open a 22-4 cushion with 10:27 to go before halftime. Larry House hit a pair of jumpers to cap the spurt and scored 11 of his 20 points in the first half.

"I think I deserve the credit," House joked. "We've really got to give the credit and praise to coach (Dana Altman) today. We let him down sometimes this season but not tonight."

The Bluejays led 42-16 at halftime and never let their cushion shrink below 19 points thereafter.

After posting one-point victories over Indiana State and Wichita State in its first two MVC tournament games, Creighton came out strong, shooting 49 percent (17-of-35) in the first half and 52 percent (31-of-60) for the game.

Bluejays star and tournament MVP Kyle Korver scored four of his 12 points in the first half and was one of eight Creighton players with at least four points before intermission.

Like House, Korver was in a joking mood, saying the Bluejays should be one of the top seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

"First game should be in Omaha," he said. "I don't think it matters a whole lot. We're excited that we're in the tournament."

Korver shot 3-of-5 from the field and led Creighton with 10 rebounds and six assists. Michael Lindeman and Brody Deren had seven boards apiece to help the Bluejays to a 43-34 advantage on the glass.

"Kyle's a complete player," Altman said. "He senses when our team needs some scoring and tonight he sensed that we didn't need scoring. We needed somebody to move the ball around and play `D,' and he gave us that."

Williams, Dearman and Korn each had four points at halftime for the Salukis. Williams finished with 13 and Dearman 10 while Darren Brooks led SIU with 15.

Southern Illinois scored 40 points in the second half but still shot just 34 percent (22-of-64) for the game. The Salukis were a miserable 2-of-17 from 3-point range.

Just about the only area at which things went right for Southern Illinois was the free-throw line. Williams was 4-of-4 to lead the Salukis' 91 percent (10-of-11) effort.

Creighton set a school record with its 29th win, a total that leads all Division I schools.


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