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Evansville wins Missouri Valley, headed to first NCAAs
Posted: Saturday March 06, 1999 09:49 PM
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- After all the years of losing and frustration, Evansville wasn't about to be put off by a little foul trouble and five extra minutes.
Evansville earned its first-ever berth in the NCAA women's basketball tournament by beating Creighton 75-72 in overtime Saturday to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
The Lady Aces (19-10) pulled out the victory under trying circumstances and can watch the NCAA selection show on Sunday knowing their school will appear on the brackets.
The 19 victories are one more than Evansville had in the previous five seasons combined. The Lady Aces were 1-17 in the conference and 6-20 overall last year.
"I think to say we're a Cinderella story would be an understatement," Evansville's Beth Voellinger said. "I knew it wouldn't be easy, but we made it this far and I'm speechless today."
Shyla McKibbon led Evansville with 21 points and 12 rebounds and was named the tournament's most valuable player. Reserve Carmen Rohls scored 12 points, including a 3-pointer and four key free throws in the overtime, and Voellinger added 11.
Corey Sweeney led Creighton (16-13) with 21 points, 17 in the second half, and Taya Allen had 17, all after halftime.
McKibbon, Voellinger and Tami Masterson all fouled out during a 55-second span late in regulation and LaTasha Austin departed in the overtime. That left it up to players such as Rohls and Lisa Eckart and they came through, combining for all 10 Evansville points in the overtime.
"Carmen Rohls, my goodness, an unbelievable performance," Evansville coach Kathi Bennett said. "I felt like we had just enough effort to finish it."
Rohls, 6-for-20 on 3-point shots coming in, hit a 3-pointer 15 seconds into the overtime and Eckart followed with a sweeping shot in the lane.
That put Evansville up 70-65 and the Lady Aces led the rest of the way. Rohls hit two free throws to make it 73-68 with 1:46 to play and she sank two more for a 75-72 lead with 9.2 seconds left.
"I got pretty nervous sitting there," said McKibbon, who fouled out with 1:44 left in regulation. "I had my eyes closed on some of those free throws."
She wasn't the only one.
"I think my eyes were closed, too," Rohls said.
Rohls' final two free throws made Evansville 33-of-39 on the day and forced Creighton to try a 3-point shot to tie. The Bluejays got the ball to Sweeney on the right wing, but she missed with two defenders in her face at the buzzer.
Creighton coach Connie Yori said she probably should have called a timeout at the end, although her team ran the play she wanted.
"We worked on it at every shootaround this year," Yori said. "We just didn't execute it very well and naturally, we didn't get a very good look."
Creighton rallied from 10 points down midway through the second half took a 65-64 lead on Sweeney's jump shot with 23.5 seconds left in regulation. Austin made one of two free throws with 12.3 seconds remaining to tie it and Allen missed a 14-footer from the right side just before the buzzer.
"Honest to God, I never thought we were going to lose that game," said Sweeney, who said Evansville's foul troubles inspired the Lady Aces instead of hurting them.
"I don't think it changed any momentum," she said. "If anything, it made the momentum go their way a little bit. The other players knew they'd have to dig down even deeper."
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