ST. LOUIS -- After surviving a pair of close games, Creighton won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament with ease.
The Bluejays got 20 points from Larry House and took advantage of horrendous first-half shooting by top-seeded Southern Illinois to romp in the championship game with an 80-56 victory on Monday night.
"Tonight, we proved who is the best in the Valley," House said. "It was no letup for us, from start to finish."
The 19th-ranked Bluejays (29-4) were the second seed in the tournament after losing 70-62 March 1 at Southern Illinois (24-6), the regular-season champion the last two years. Creighton struggled in its first two tournament games, a pair of one-point victories over Indiana State and Wichita State, but put it all together to win the tournament championship for the fourth time in five seasons.
"We didn't play well the first two games, and we wanted to make a statement," forward Michael Lindeman said. "We knew we could play better."
Meanwhile, it all fell apart for Southern Illinois. The Salukis missed 17 of their first 18 shots, hitting just 15.6 percent in the first half and fell behind by 26 points. Creighton had leads of 10-0, 22-4 and 42-14 in the half and was ahead by as many as 33 points at 57-24 in the second half.
"I used every emotion I had," Southern Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "I laughed at them, I yelled at them at times. No matter what I tried, nothing worked."
Despite the lopsided finale, both teams likely are headed to the NCAA tournament. Creighton gets the conference's automatic bid for its fifth straight trip, and Southern Illinois was ranked 37th in the RPI.