ST. CHARLES, Mo. -Carli Tritz scored 27 of her career-high 29 points in the second half to outscore Missouri State herself and lead the Creighton women's basketball team past the Lady Bears 56-47 in the semifinals of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at The Family Arena Saturday afternoon. Tritz scored 17 consecutive points for the Bluejays at one point and outscored MSU 27-24 after halftime in the upset victory over the regular-season champions.
Creighton overcame an early 12-point deficit and a three-point halftime deficit to advance to the championship game for the fourth time in the last six years. Tritz finished 9-of-18 from the field and 8-of-11 at the free-throw line to lead the Jays. Sarah Nelson had nine points and led the team with 12 rebounds and a career-best six blocked shots.
The Bluejays (19-12) were sluggish out of the gates, scoring just two points through the first eight minutes of play and dropping behind by 12 after a Regan Soldner basket put the Lady Bears up 16-4 midway through the half. The Bluejays made just 2-of-12 shots to start the game before using a 12-0 run to tied the game at 16 with 7:18 left.
Jordan Garrison's slashing layup with 3:33 left in the half gave the Bluejays their first lead of the game, up 20-18. That proved to be Creighton's last bucket of the half, as MSU scored the final five points of the half and weathered a scoreless drought that lasted four minutes and 36 seconds.
The second half belonged to Tritz, as the first-team all-MVC guard took over the game. The Bluejays led by one point after Jaleshia Roberson knocked down three free-throw attempts with 11:55 to play, but Ally Jensen drained a three-pointer on CU's next possession to put the Jays up 35-31. Tritz would then score the next 17 points for Creighton over a nine-minute span until Jensen snapped the streak with a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left in the game.
Tritz and the Bluejays were able to hold off the Lady Bears when MSU closed in with under four minutes to play. A Casey Garrison jumper cut the Bluejay lead to 41-39, but Tritz would nail back-to-back three-pointers and converted a rare four-point play on her second of those treys to five the Bluejays a 48-41 lead with 1:47 to go.
The Lady Bears (22-8) entered the game as the top-scoring team in the conference, but MSU was held to a season-low 47 points, shooting just 29.9 percent in the loss. The Lady Bears went 0-for-14 from three-point range and made 27.8 percent of their shots in the second half after starting the half just 4-of-23 (.174).
Creighton held its opponent below 50 points for the sixth time in its last 11 MVC Tournament games. The Bluejays shot 36.7 percent from the field, but made 10-of-23 (.435) shots in the second half, including 4-of-10 from three-point range. The Jays made 14-of-18 free throws in the win (.778).
Tritz's career-high 29 points were the most scored by a Bluejay since Dec. 13, 2008 when Chevelle Herring scored 31 against Kansas. She had eight of Creighton's 10 second-half field goals and 27 of CU's 36 points after the half. The sophomore also led the team with four assists.
Nelson fell one block shy of tying the school record, while her six blocks were the most by a Bluejay since Megan Neuvirth swatted six on Dec. 21, 2008 against Colorado State. Nelson's rebounding helped CU stay in the game, as she topped the Jays with 12 caroms and Tritz added eight boards.
MSU was led by Casey Garrison's 18 points. No other Lady Bear scored more than eight points, while Karly Buer made only 3-of-17 shots in the loss.
Creighton will search for its elusive second MVC Tournament title on Sunday afternoon at 2 pm against the winner of the second semifinal between No. 7 seed Drake and No. 3 seed Wichita State. The Bluejays' only other title came in 2002, while the Jays will be making their fourth MVC tournament title appearance in the last six years.
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