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Championship Week recap: Day 7’s best game, top player

Doug McDermott

Creighton’s Doug McDermott holds up his piece of the net after his team won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship NCAA basketball game, Sunday, March 4, 2012 in St. Louis. Creighton beat Illinois State 83-79 in overtime.(AP Photo/Tom Gannam)


Over the next 13 days, the brackets will start to take shape. Teams with no at-large aspirations will make one final push at the post-season. Teams on the bubble will look to assert themselves as worthy members of “The Big Dance”, and contenders will start priming their engines for a national Championship run. While “March Madness” officially begins following Selection Sunday, the real madness starts now.

Until Sunday, March 11, this will be your home for Championship Week recaps and previews. The players and teams are starting to prepare for March Madness, so you should too.

Game of the Night: Vermont 77, Hartford 75 2OT
In a game that featured 11 ties and 26 lead changes, the No.2-seed Vermont Catamounts were able to outlast the No.6-seed Hartford Hawks in a thrilling America East semifinal match-up. Sandro Carissimo scored a career-high 18 points, and sent the game into double overtime when he hit a tough runner with four seconds remaining in the first overtime. Andres Torres led the Hawks with 8 points, but fouled out of the game early in overtime. Genesis Maciael tried to pick up the slack, hitting a big 3-pointer in the second overtime to put the Hawks up two. But when Hartford scored, Vermont always answered, and a Matt Glass 3-pointer at the other end put the Catamounts ahead. They hit their free throws and survived.

- They were good too: Creighton 83, Illinois State 79 OT
Fueled by Doug McDermott’s 33 points, and a career-high 20 points from Grant Gibbs, the Creighton Bluejays punched their ticket to the Big Dance by defeating upset-minded Illinois State in the MVC finals. Creighton led by as many as 11 in the first half, but the Redbirds mounted a feverish comeback to take a one point lead at halftime. In the second half the teams traded leads, and Nic Moore scored a lay-up with 20 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime. In the extra period, Antoine Young took over. He went 6-of-8 from the foul line and finished with eight of the Bluejays 17 points in overtime. Moore led the Redbirds with 20 points, and added four rebounds and five assists. Jackie Carmichael had 17 points and 9 rebounds.

Player of the Night: Doug McDermott, Creighton
The Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year had one of his best games of the season, scoring 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting, as the Bluejays won the MVC tournament championship. McDermott’s best games of the season have come when his team needed it most, and the Bluejays certainly needed it on Sunday. He faught through constant double-teams, and physical pressure, but couldn’t be stopped, only slightly contained.

- He was good too: Dallis Joyner, Stony Brook
The senior forward kept his collegiate career alive by scoring a buzzer-beating, game-winning tip-in as time expired, to propel the Seawolves over Albany in the America East semifinals. Joyner finished with 14 points and jumped in for the putback on a jumper by Dave Coley as the clock expired. Joyner also provided eight rebounds, two blocks and one steal.

Team of the Night: Fairfield Stags
Coming in to the season, the Stags were picked as the only MAAC team to be able to threaten Iona for the conference title. After losing both regular season meetings, they played their best game of the season, and slowed down a versatile, high scoring Iona offense. Fairfield shot 60 percent from the field (31-of-52), and while the Gaels also shot well, making 51 percent (26 of 51) of their shots, the Stags outrebounded them 32-20. Boston College-transfer Rakim Sanders led the Stags with 26 points and 12 rebounds.

- They were good too: Arkansas State Red Wolves
Middle Tennessee was far and away the best Sun Belt team this season, but thanks to a gritty effort from the No.9-seed Red Wolves, the Blue Raiders will not be dancing. Trey Finn led Arkansas State with 16 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. During last year’s tournament, when ASU was the No.1-seed, Finn blew out his knee, and his team was upset by Arkansas-Little Rock, the eventual tournament champions. This time around, it was Finn’s team to spring the upset.

Sunday Results:

America East Semifinals
#2 Vermont 77, #6 Hartford 73
#1 Stony Brook 57, #4 Albany 55

Colonial Athletic Association Semifinals
#2 Virginia Commonwealth 74, #3 George Mason 64
#1 Drexel 68, #4 Old Dominion 51

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Semifinals
#4 Fairfield 85, #1 Iona 75
#2 Loyola (Md.) 70, #6 Siena 60

Missouri Valley Conference Finals
#2 Creighton 83, #4 Illinois State 79 OT

Northeast Conference Semifinals
#3 Robert Morris 71, #2 Wagner 64
#1 Long Island 78, #5 Quinnipiac 7

Southern Conference Semifinals
#3N Western Carolina 82 #1N UNC-Greensboro 77
#1S Davidson 83, #2N Elon 67

Summit League Semifinals
#6 Southern Utah 84, #3 Oakland 82
#4 Western Illinois 58, #5 North Dakota State 53

Sun Belt Quarterfinals
#9 Arkansas State 64, #1 Middle Tennessee 61
#7 Western Kentucky 66, #2 Arkansas-Little Rock 63
#5 North Texas 65, #4 Louisiana-Lafayette 62
#3 Denver 61, #6 South Alabama 50