ST. LOUIS — Freshman Devonte Brown saved Indiana State with his offense in the first half and his defense in the closing seconds.
Brown came off the bench to score all of his team-leading 11 points in the first half and then blocked the potential game-winning shot at the buzzer as the Sycamores edged the Evansville Purple Aces 51-50 on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
After a free throw by Justin Gant put the Sycamores up by a point with 2.5 seconds left, the Purple Aces attempted a baseball pass on the ensuing inbounds.
Evansville's Ned Cox ended up with the ball after it was deflected near the free-throw line.
Cox was headed for a layup on the left side of the basket when Brown came from the right side to put his hand over the ball on the shot.
Brown came down with the ball in one hand, and then cupped it with the other hand.
"We had a breakdown on the defense, and there's two seconds left, so somebody had to make a play," Brown said. "I just sprinted and got there and got a block.
"That was my first really big-time play, I guess you could say, on the college level."
The fifth-seeded Sycamores (18-13) advance to play the top-seeded Creighton Bluejays (25-7) at 1:35 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals of the tourney.
The Sycamores upset the Bluejays 76-57 in their last meeting on Feb. 6.
The fourth-seeded Purple Aces exit the tourney with an 18-14 record.
The game was a defensive tussle as Indiana State shot 38.3 percent (18-for-47) and Evansville shot 35.7 percent (20-for-56).
"It was just a tough, tough, grind-it-out, physical basketball game," Evansville coach Marty Simmons said. "I'm sure it looked ugly at times, but I thought both teams were giving tons and tons of effort out there.
"I'm very proud of the way our team battled back and put ourselves in a position to win. Unfortunately, Indiana State made one more play than we were able to."
Asked about a couple of controversial calls late, including a no-call against Brown on his block, Simmons said, "I'm not going to touch that with a 10-foot pole. Those guys are great officials. We have some of the best in the country."
Evansville's Colt Ryan, who entered the game as the second-leading scorer in the MVC with an average of 20 points per game, was held scoreless in the second half.
Ryan had a streak 20 straight games scoring in double figures snapped as he finished eight points.
The Sycamores led by 10 points in the second half, but the Purple Aces used a 14-2 run to pull back in front.
Evansville fell back by two points until D.J. Ballentine scored on a layup to tie the score at 50-50 with 3:01 left to play.
Neither team scored again until Gant's free throw.
Evansville's Tory Taylor missed two free throws with 22 seconds remaining, and Gant missed his first attempt before making his second.
"When I got to line, I just tried to stay calm and focus on all the days I went to the gym and worked on my jump shot and my free throws," Gant said. "I always shoot 100 free throws. After I missed the first one, I tried not to get nervous or upset about it and just focus on the next one."
Creighton 65, Drake 53
Doug McDermott became Creighton's all-time leading scorer in just his junior season as the Bluejays pulled away in the second half to a win over the Drake Bulldogs.
McDermott had 23 points in the game. His 13th point moved him past Rodney Buford, who scored 2,116 points from 1995-99 for the Bluejays, and into the top spot on Creighton's career scoring chart.
"It's really cool," McDermott said. "I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates and my coaches. I would never be in this position without them.
"I just play with a lot of unselfish guys. It has been a blast so far, but I can't dwell on it too much because we have a big game tomorrow and a big rest of the season."
McDermott has scored 20 or more points in 53 of his 106 games for the Bluejays.
"It's special," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said of his son breaking the school's scoring record. "It's more special because it's happening on a team that is winning a lot of basketball games.
"I think that's what is most gratifying to Doug, and I certainly feel the same way."
The Bluejays also got a big boost off the bench from 6-foot-11 sophomore Will Artino, who had a career-high 14 points.
"Whenever coach calls your name off the bench, you have to provide a spark, you have to pick up where the starter left off," Artino said. "That's what I've tried to do. Stay more focused, stay more in tune with the game and whenever coach calls my name, be ready."
The Bulldogs (15-17) shot only 35 percent (21-for-60). They were outrebounded 44-26.
Center Gregory Echenique spearheaded Creighton's defense with 11 rebounds and six blocked shots.
"I thought Gregory really changed the game defensively in the second half," Coach McDermott said. "There was nothing happening in the paint because of his energy and his ability to block shots and change shots."
Illinois State 73, Northern Iowa 65
Tyler Brown scored 28 points and four Redbirds finished the game with double figures as Illinois State (18-14) scored 39 second half points to erase a 35-34 halftime deficit.
Northern Iowa (18-14) was led by Marc Sonnen's 16 points; three other Panthers scored in double figures.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.