Rodney Buford scored 21 points, including nine points in a crucial 1:44 second-half sequence, as Creighton beat top seed Evansville 70-61 for the championship of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament Monday night.
Buford also had 13 rebounds and Ben Walker had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Creighton (21-8), the No. 2 seed. The Bluejays, who have won six in a row, get the Valley's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and will make their first appearance since 1991.
Marcus Wilson had 16 points and Craig Snow 13 for Evansville (23-9), which won the conference race by two games and split with Creighton in the regular season with each team winning on the road. Wilson, the Valley's player of the year, totaled 59 points in the two regular-season games against Creighton.
After going 15-for-24 in Evansville's first two tourney games, Wilson was 5-for-14 in the finale. He wasn't the only one missing for the Purple Aces, who shot 37.7 percent.
Evansville, which has won nine of 12 and is 54th in the RPI ratings, expects to get an at-large berth in the NCAAs. Creighton is No. 55 in the RPI.
The game was tied 48-48 when Buford, the third-leading active scorer in the country with 2,090 points, took over. His running jump hook with 9:40 remaining gave Creighton the lead for good. He hit a 3-pointer at the 8:45 mark, scored inside at 8:09 and then had a steal and dunk with 7:56 left for a 57-51 lead.
Buford's play began an 18-4 run for Creighton, which had trailed by three at halftime. The Bluejays were 6-for-6 at the line during the run, which produced a 66-52 lead with 2:54 to go.
Buford had a similar sequence in the semifinal against Southwest Missouri on Sunday, getting seven of his 16 points in 1:29 to key an 11-1 run in a 78-70 come-from-behind victory.
Buford was named tournament MVP and was joined on the all-tournament team by Walker, Wilson and Snow of Evansville and Rob Dye of Bradley.
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