It took over 3 1/2 minutes for someone to score in the first semifinal at Arch Madness in St. Louis. But once Ron Baker made his trademark straightaway three from the left side and senior All-America candidate Cleanthony Early scored inside on a layup and was fouled in the process, this game was for all practical purposes…over and done.
The final score was 67-42, as Missouri State was limited to only 19 points in the first half–their lowest output after 20 minutes all season long. This was the same Bears squad that squandered a 19 point lead the first time they met and lost by three in overtime, the closest school to stopping this undefeated run.
The 32nd win matched the Missouri Valley record set by the Larry Bird-led Indiana State Sycamores in 1979, when Bird’s basket in the closing seconds sunk the dreams of Ray Meyer and the nation’s top-ranked team, the DePaul Blue Demons. (And yes, for personal reasons–it was the very first game that I ever watched, college or pro).
And yes, that will be the same school the Shockers will play for the MVC title on Sunday afternoon–2 p.m. EDT on CBS. Indiana State survived a scare from Southern Illinois, 62-59 in the early evening session to set up this final showdown.
Meanwhile, in Gainsville–Florida easily whipped Kentucky 84-65. Nearly 60 percent shooting from the field helped the Gators largely, led by Patric Young’s 18 which led all scorers. They are the first team ever in SEC play to finish league play undefeated at 18-0, and are definitely on track to being named as the overall number 1 seed eight nights from now.
More updates from the night session later.