Southwest Missouri State 65, Southern Illinois 61
ST. LOUIS (AP)—Nathan Bilyeu made two free throws with 46 seconds left to send Southwest Missouri State, which trailed by 23 points in the first half, to a 65-61 upset victory over Southern Illinois in a semifinal game Sunday in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
The fifth-seeded Bears (18-11) pulled off the same feat in the tournament last year against the top-seeded Salukis (26-7). Southwest Missouri plays Creighton, which beat Wichita State 70-60 in the other semifinal, in the championship game at 8 p.m. Monday.
Tamarr Maclin was the only Bear in double figures with 19 points.
Darren Brooks, the conference Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive year, scored 25 points for the Salukis, who have won the regular season title for the past four years yet have not won the postseason tournament. Jamaal Tatum added 18 points for Southern Illinois.
Southwest Missouri fell behind 42-19 with 4:18 to play in the first half but ended the half on a 7-0 run to trail 42-26 and set the tone for the final 20 minutes.
A 3-pointer by Brooks put the Salukis up 50-36 with 13:48 left to play. The Bears cut the Salukis’ lead to eight at 52-46 at the 11:08 mark but Brooks stepped in again. He picked up a loose ball, got fouled making a layup and added a free throw to put Southern Illinois ahead 55-46.
However, Southwest Missouri trimmed the lead to 55-50 with 9:40 left and kept chipping away until the Bears tied it at 59 on a layup by Bilyeu with 2:08 to play.
Tatum was fouled but missed the free throw. Bilyeu, who scored eight points, was fouled on the rebound. He sank both of his free throw attempts with 46 seconds showing, giving Southwest Missouri a 61-59 lead. The Bears added four more free throws to close out the come-from-behind victory.
It looked like Southern Illinois would run away with the game. Brooks scored 10 of Southern Illinois’ first 16 points as the Salukis led 16-5 just six minutes into the game.
In a span of 1:32, the Salukis scored 11 unanswered points for a 35-15 advantage with 7:08 left in the half. Brooks swished a 3-point shot and then hit a 15-footer with 4:18 left in the half to give the Salukis their biggest lead at 42-19.
Southwest Missouri made 27 of 31 free throw attempts and hit 45 percent from the field.
Southern Illinois had just 10 free throw attempts, making eight. From the floor, the Salukis hit 41 percent but shot just 32 percent in the second half.