SPRINGFIELD -- Missouri State used a 10-0 run late in the second half to hold off Creighton, 67-61, here Wednesday in the semifinals of the second CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
The Bears (23-12) will host the tournament's championship game on Tuesday against the winner of Thursday night's other semifinal between Pacific (22-11) and Appalachian State (24-10).
Missouri State's winning stretch run came after Creighton tied the game on a pair of free throws by Justin Carter with 6:18 to go. Carter's charity shots capped a 19-9 run by the Bluejays (18-16) who trailed 43-33 with 15:25 remaining.
The Bears, however, kept their composure and used a driving layup by Nafis Ricks just 20 seconds after Carter's free throws to regain the lead. Jermaine Mallett knocked down a pair of free throws to put MSU up 56-52 moments later before a driving layup by Will Creekmore extended the Bears' advantage to six points with 5:02 on the clock.
Creighton head coach Dana Altman then called a timeout to rally his troops, but the Bluejays missed a three-pointer on their next possession. With 3:45 to go, Kyle Weems stole the ball from CU's Cavel Witter, and the Bears converted moments later on Adam Leonard's third three-pointer of the night to give MSU a 61-52 lead.
Ricks made 4-of-6 free throws in the final 2:25 and ended the game with a layup with to give the Bears a 67-55 lead with just over a minute remaining to ice the team's 18th home victory of the season.
Ricks and Leonard led four Bears in double figures with 15 points apiece. Leonard became the fifth Missouri Valley Conference player to eclipse 100 three-pointers in a season, now with 101, and recorded his third straight double-figure scoring game in the CIT. Creekmore added 13 points and six rebounds for the Bears, while Mallett notched 11 points.
Creighton got 21 points from Kenny Lawson, including 3 three-pointers during the Bluejays' comeback run midway through the second half. Antoine Young added 17 for CU, while Ethan Wragge scored 12.
Missouri State outrebounded the Bluejays 34-33, extending their streak to nine games of matching or outrebounding their opponent. Cuonzo Martin's squad finished 24-for-54 (.444) from the field with an 8-for-25 (.320) effort from three-point range. The Bears, who never trailed in the game, were also 11-for-14 (.786) at the foul line with just eight turnovers on the night.
Creighton was 22-for-58 (.379) from the field and knocked down seven three-pointers in 17 attempts (.412). The Jays were also 10-of-13 (.769) at the line with just nine turnovers in the game.
The Bears set a new single-season standard in the contest by playing their 35th game of the campaign.
In the first half, MSU got things started with a traditional three-point play by Creekmore 13 seconds into the game. He later pushed the Bears' advantage to 7-2 just over two minutes in and finished the half with 7 points.
A pull-up jumper by Ricks at the 12:29 mark gave Missouri State a 16-8 advantage, and the game see-sawed back-and-forth between an eight and six-point advantage for the home squad most of the way from there. Mallett, who spent most of the first half on the bench with two fouls, nailed a three-pointer at the 4:29 mark to give the Bears their biggest lead of the half, 29-20. Later, Justin Fuehrmeyer's trifecta with 24 seconds remaining in the opening period not only put him over 500 points for his career, but helped MSU regain an eight-point lead, 34-26, at the break.
This will be the Bears' first appearance in the championship game of a national postseason tournament since appearing in the 1974 NCAA Division II Championship game. MSU, which was 11-20 a year ago, has never played Pacific or Appalachian State.