ST. LOUIS — Daishon Knight really found his touch in the second half. No situation was too big for Illinois State’s senior guard.
Knight capped a 25-point game with two critical free throws in the closing seconds and the Redbirds rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit with 63 percent shooting to beat No. 8 Wichita State 65-62 in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament on Saturday.
“You’ve got to make shots,” Redbirds coach Dan Muller said. “You’re not going to trick them or out-grind them.”
Knight was 6 for 7 from the field in the second half, including a 3-pointer that put Illinois State ahead to stay at 59-58 with 2:21 to go. He had nine points in a 14-0 run that put the Redbirds in front early in the second half. Reggie Lynch was 3 for 5 with nine of his 11 points and all but one of his five blocks in the second half.
“Our energy was unbelievable in the second half,” Knight said. “We weren’t even thinking about fatigue. We came out and played the way we wanted to play.”
The fourth-seeded Redbirds (21-11), who were 0-2 against the regular season champions in conference play and trailed by 12 in the first half. Illinois State has won six straight and will play No. 11 Northern Iowa, the second seed, for the Valley’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in the final on Sunday.
Another win by the Redbirds would most likely give the Valley three bids for the first time since sending four teams in 2006.
“It felt great to win another game,” Knight said. “But you try to stay composed and know you’ve got another game to play.”
Fred VanVleet had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Wichita State (28-4), which was 17-1 in the conference with the lone loss at Northern Iowa but was bothered by Illinois State’s zone. VanVleet had a tough look and was offline on a 3-point attempt with 1 second remaining.
“It’s just heart-breaking,” VanVleet said. “In that minute, you’re numb.”
Freshman reserve MiKyle McIntosh, a 55 percent free throw shooter, was 4 for 4 at the line over the final 1:47 for his only points of the game. Knight hit two free throws with 7.6 seconds to go for the game’s final points.
“I’ve been working on it a lot,” McIntosh said. “I made it when I needed to.”
Knight had 24 points the first meeting against Wichita State but was scoreless on 0 for 8 shooting in the second at home before breaking out.
Ron Baker had 13 points for Wichita State but was scoreless in the second half on 0 for 5 shooting. Baker, who may have been hampered by a hard fall under the basket, added seven assists and six rebounds.
The 14-0 run gave Illinois State a 41-36 lead with just under 13 minutes to go. Wichita State went nearly 6 minutes between baskets before climbing back into it and it was tight the rest of the way.
Baker was on pace to challenge for a triple-double at the half with 13 points, five assists and four rebounds, plus two steals.
Green Bay 70, UIC 56
VALPARAISO, Ind. — Keifer Sykes scored 30 points — including 15 in the final seven minutes — to lead No. 2 seed Green Bay to a 70-56 win over No. 6 seed UIC in the Horizon League tournament semifinals.
Alfonzo McKinnie added 13 points and six rebounds for the Phoenix (24-7) who will play either No. 1 Valparaiso or No. 4 Cleveland for the Horizon League championship on March 10.
Green Bay trailed 30-29 at the break, but Sykes slammed a dunk early in the second half to spark a 16-6 run that included a pair of 3-pointers by McKinnie to put the Phoenix on top 45-36 with 11:48 to play. Later, a dunk by Greg Mays followed by 15-straight points by Sykes stretched the Phoenix lead to 66-50 and they cruised to the win from there.
Jay Harris led the Flames (10-24) with 18 points.
No. 11 Northern Iowa 63, Loyola 49
ST. LOUIS — Seth Tuttle led a balanced, methodical attack with 13 points and No. 11 Northern Iowa was stingy again defensively, beating Loyola 63-49 in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament semifinals.
Marvin Singleton and Jeremy Morgan added 11 points apiece for the Panthers (29-3), who held Bradley to 46 points in the quarterfinals. Northern Iowa is fourth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 54 points, and has won 18 of 19 headed into the title game against fourth-seeded Illinois State (21-11), which upset top-seeded and eighth-ranked Wichita State earlier Saturday.
Northern Iowa beat Illinois State by one and 19 points in the regular season.
The Panthers shot 51 percent, scored 14 points off turnovers and held Loyola (19-13) without an offensive rebound. The Ramblers, who entered with a three-game winning streak and scored 81 points in the quarterfinals, shot 46 percent but were outrebounded 27-18 overall.
Montel James had 14 points and Milton Doyle added 11 points and six assists for Loyola.
Marquette 58, DePaul 48
MILWAUKEE — Matt Carlino scored 20 points and Luke Fischer added 17 as Marquette, despite poor shooting, clamped down on DePaul 58-48 in the Big East season finale between two struggling teams.
Marquette (12-18, 4-14 Big East) ended a six-game losing streak while sending DePaul (12-19, 6-12) to its seventh-straight loss.
Carlino made all five of Marquette’s 3-pointers, finishing 5 of 14 from long range while the rest of the Golden Eagles launched eight more 3-point attempts.
DePaul came in averaging nearly eight 3-pointers a game — hitting 241 for a single-season record — but were just 3 of 6 from deep against Marquette. Jamee Crockett led the Blue Demons with 14 points and Myke Henry 12.
Each team shot just shy of 33 percent from the field. Thanks to Creighton’s 75-73 loss to Xavier Saturday, Marquette grabbed the No. 9 seed into the Big East tournament.
Iowa 69, Northwestern 52
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Senior Aaron White scored 25 points and Iowa beat Northwestern 69-52 for its first six-game Big Ten winning streak in 28 years.
White also passed Acie Earl for the second-most points in school history to lead the Hawkeyes (21-10, 12-6 Big Ten).
Iowa never trailed in its final home game of the year. The Hawkeyes turned a six-point halftime lead into a 52-35 advantage midway through the second half and finished their conference slate with identical 6-3 home and road records.
Tre Demps had 15 points for Northwestern (15-16, 6-12), which lost for just the second time in seven games.
No. 12 Notre Dame 81, Clemson 67
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Jerian Grant had 19 points and eight assists, Zach Auguste added 19 points and No. 12 Notre Dame shot 55 percent as the Fighting Irish cruised to an 81-67 victory over Clemson.
Jaron Blossomgame kept Clemson in the game for a while, scoring the first seven points and 13 of the Tigers’ first 17. But Blossomgame added just nine more points the rest of the way after Steve Vasturia started defending him, finishing with 22 points.
Auguste scored five points during a 7-0 run late in the first half to open an 11-point lead and the Irish hit three 3-pointers early in the second half and used a 10-3 spurt to go ahead 55-38.
Notre Dame (26-5, 14-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) finished with the most regular-season victories in school history. Clemson (16-14, 8-10) lost for the sixth time in its last eight games.
Michigan State 74, Indiana 72
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Travis Trice scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half as Michigan State barely staved off Indiana’s frantic rally 74-72.
The Spartans (21-10, 11-6) have won two straight and six of eight as they try to earn the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten tournament.
Indiana (19-12, 9-9) continued its recent swoon by losing its third in a row. Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell had 21 points and James Blackmon Jr. added 17.
Michigan State appeared to have it wrapped up with a 67-56 lead and 3:42 to go.
Indiana got within 72-69 with 27.4 seconds left and twice had chances to force overtime.
But Michigan State fouled Blackmon before he could take a 3-pointer, and after Trice missed the second of two free throws, Ferrell was fouled in the backcourt but only made 1 of 2 free throws. Zeisloft’s 40-court heave at the buzzer was short.
Michigan 79, Rutgers 69
ANN ARBOR, Mich.— Aubrey Dawkins scored a career-high 31 points and Max Bielfeldt added 14 points and 11 rebounds on his senior day to lift Michigan to a 79-69 victory over Rutgers.
The Wolverines (15-15, 8-10 Big Ten) finished a disappointing regular season on a positive note, winning for only the second time in their last nine games. Michigan led 47-28 at halftime, and Dawkins made eight shots from 3-point range, falling one short of Garde Thompson’s school record from 1987.
Rutgers (10-21, 2-16) finished last in its first season in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights have not won since upsetting Wisconsin on Jan. 11.
Bielfeldt was honored before the game as part of Michigan’s senior day festivities, and the 6-foot-8 forward scored 10 points before halftime. It was only the fourth game this season that Bielfeldt scored in double digits, and his 11 rebounds set a career high.
New Mexico State 61, Chicago State 57
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Tshilidzi Nephawe scored 13 points, including a dunk with :33 left to play, and New Mexico State closed out the Western Athletic Conference regular season with a 61-57 win over Chicago State.
New Mexico State (21-10, 13-1) had the regular-season title wrapped up weeks ago, finishing five games ahead of its nearest challenger and heads into next week’s WAC tournament as the No. 1 seed with a bye into the semifinals March 13 in Las Vegas.
Nephawe’s dunk gave the Aggies a 60-54 lead, but Jawad Adekoya drilled a 3-pointer with :24 left to cut the lead to 60-57. Ian Baker drew a foul with :10 left and hit the second of two free throws to create the final margin.
Clark Rosenberg scored 21 points to lead the Cougars (8-23, 4-10), with Trayvon Palmer and Adekoya each contributing 15 points.