Shaw's follow shot lifts Southern Illinois past BradleyMar 4, 2007 - 2:32 AM ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- Matt Shaw proved to be in the right place at the right time to continue Southern Illinois' tear.
Shaw converted a follow shot with 3.2 seconds remaining to help the No. 11 Salukis capture their 13th consecutive win with a 53-51 victory over Bradley in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
Jamaal Tatum scored 20 points and Shaw had 11 for Southern Illinois (27-5), which will face Creighton in Sunday's final. The Blue Jays posted a 75-58 over Missouri State in the later semifinal.
"We've closed one chapter of our book," Salukis junior guard Tony Young said. "Tomorrow is the last page in the book."
Southern Illinois will be making its second straight appearance in the MVC championship game. It won its fifth title and first since 1995 last season.
Beating the Braves for the second time in three meetings this season, the Salukis added to an impressive resume that could possibly earn them a fourth seed or better in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Southern Illinois is just one of 15 teams that has appeared in the "Big Dance" in each of the previous five years.
After falling behind, 42-35, on a layup by Bradley's Daniel Ruffin with 10:50 remaining, Southern Illinois closed out the contest with an 18-9 run.
"They're just so hard to guard because they ball screen, they dribble handoff, and they play four guards all the time, and they make you play how they play, and I thought we did a poor job of trying to put our will on them in the first half and in the first five minutes of the second half," Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery said. "I think at the 10-minute mark we actually flip-flopped places. I thought we imposed our will on them, and we really wore them down down the stretch."
Although Randal Falker split two free throws to give the Salukis a 51-49 edge with 25 seconds remaining, the Braves quickly tied the game on a layup by Zach Andrews eight ticks later.
Trying to answer right back, Tatum drove in from the right side, drawing much of the Braves' interior defense before missing the layup. Coming in from the weak side, Shaw followed up the miss with two hands to give Southern Illinois the decisive lead.
"We were just going to let J.T. (Tatum) make a play," Shaw said. "Obviously he's our best playmaker. We rely on him to make a play for us. I think everybody kind of knew he was going to take a shot. Everybody kind of collapsed on him, so my guy left and I just went to the basket and (it) came off the right way and I was able to put it in."
"I know we had some guys come over and help, and that's a prime opportunity for someone to get to the offensive boards," Braves coach Jim Les said about Shaw's big basket. "You know, I like him because he's kind of a lunch-pail guy. He just works hard and makes those ... those somewhat unassuming plays and comes out of nowhere and just battles and works, so yes, he was in the right place at the right time."
Bradley did get off a final shot, but Ruffin's heave from just inside half-court hit off the top of the backboard.
Tatum, who is averaging 17.6 points over the last seven games, finished 7-of-15 from the field with four 3-pointers.
"Tatum is a hard player to stop," Ruffin said. "Our main focus was staying in tune, challenge every shot he took. He's a great player. You've got to expect him to make some shots."
Jeremy Crouch scored 14 points and Ruffin added 12 for the Braves (21-12), who are likely to receive a bid to the NIT Tournament.
Despite missing six of its final eight shots down the stretch, Bradley was sure to point out that it did not feel worn down at the end of the game.
"No, not at all," said Ruffin, who made just 1-of-5 3-pointers. "I think we as a team did a good job this year of being in shape, and I thought we were definitely ready, you know, for anything that SIU had for us. We were definitely in shape."
An at-large selection for the NCAA Tournament last season that went on to reach the regional semifinals as a No. 13 seed, the Braves now have to wait around to see how their fate for the postseason shakes out.
"I think we're one of the top 65 teams in the country, you know, based on our RPI, based on our strength of schedule, based on the fact that we had to play 13 games without one of our best players in our starting lineup," Les said. "Those are major factors, and I hope somebody considers those as we move forward.
"There's always speculation that teams get in on reputation, teams get in on what they've done in the past, and you know, I just hope some people in that room have a memory - a one-year memory, I should say."
- MISSOURI VALLEY CONF TR
AT ST LOUIS MO
NCAA BB MISSOURI VALLEY CONF TR
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
BRADLEY 26 25 51
SOUTHN ILLINOIS (11) 26 27 53 FINAL
Mar 3 4:38 PM
- MISSOURI VALLEY CONF TR
AT ST LOUIS MO
NCAA BB BRADLEY 26
SOUTHN ILLINOIS (11) 26 HALFTIME
Mar 3 3:24 PM
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