ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Everything seemed hard to come by inside the Scottrade Center Friday afternoon.
In the Missouri Valley Conference quarterfinal, the University of Northern Iowa had as tough of a time as ever.
Illinois State finally separated itself from the game-long grind and bounced UNI from the tournament by a score of 54-42.
The 42 points is one point above the season-low for the Panthers (19-13), who struggled their way to a 25.5 percent (14-55) shooting performance and a 17-point second half.
"Their bigs are long and athletic. Their guards are strong and quick, so they're a very good defensive team," said UNI junior Jake Koch, who scored all nine of his points in the first half. "They really pressure you and get out there and extend their defense."
UNI hit seven from behind the arc, but matched that with just seven field goals from two-point range. Of course, the presence of Redbird big man Jackie Carmichael kept UNI in check.
Carmichael blocked five shots and Illinois State (19-12) had nine blocks in all.
"Where our offense really got slowed down was when we did get to the rim, they blocked nine of our shots," said UNI head coach Ben Jacobson. "Carmichael does such a good job of covering ground. He comes out of nowhere a lot of times."
Carmichael also came grabbed plenty of balls in the air as he finished with 15 rebounds to help his team to a 48-33 advantage on the glass.
"Where it really hurt us was at our defensive end," said Jacobson, whose team gave up nine offensive rebounds to Illinois State. "The offensive rebounds they got, especially in the second half, those were the ones that hurt us."
The junior also got the Redbirds going on the other end of the floor as he finished with a game-high 16 points.
With the score tied 31-31, Carmichael threw down a two-handed jam while drawing a foul on UNI's Anthony James. The ensuing free throw was part of a 9-0 run that inflated the Redbird advantage to seven points and UNI never climbed back to within one possession the rest of the way.
"In a game that is that close and that close because both teams are having such a hard time scoring, sometimes all it takes is one good play," Jacobson said.
That 9-0 run was during a UNI scoreless drought that stretched nearly five minutes.
"We've had times where we've played on great defensive half and not finished it out, but tonight it really came together," Carmichael said. "I felt like from the beginning, everyone came out and played hard."
The Panthers built a four-point halftime advantage thanks to five 3-pointers, but fell cold in the second half, making just 2 of 11.
Moran hit three from deep in the game and led UNI with 13 points. Koch had eight rebounds along with his nine points, but the Panthers' two leading scorers - Anthony James and Seth Tuttle - scored a combined four points on 2 of 13 shooting.
"When you do that against an outstanding team, those are the best kind of wins. Those only happen through the right mindset, the right mentality, the right toughness, the right chemistry," said Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich. "It was our best effort."
The loss sends UNI home from St. Louis early and it will now await a possible invitation from a number of postseason tournaments not called the NCAA Tournament.
"We all felt pretty strongly that we were going to make some noise in this tournament," Koch said. "We didn't want to end up like this... (now) we've got to wait to see where we end up and be ready for it - make a run in that tournament."
WICHITA STATE 72, INDIANA STATE 48
ST. LOUIS -- Toure Murry and Joe Ragland scored 14 points each and Garrett Stutz had 12 rebounds to lead No. 15 Wichita State to a 72-48 win over Indiana State in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament on Friday. The Shockers (27-4) won their season-high ninth straight and will play Illinois State on Saturday for a spot in the championship. Wichita State, which won the regular season title with a 16-2 mark, is looking for its first MVC tournament title since 1987.
CREIGHTON 68, DRAKE 61
ST. LOUIS - Greg McDermott scored 26 points and Antoine Young added 16 points to lift No. 25 Creighton to a 68-61 victory Friday night over Drake in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
Rayvonte Rice led Drake (17-15) with 15 points. Kurt Alexander added 14 and Jordan Clarke and Ben Simons each added 11 points.
Creighton (26-5) won all three matchups this season with the Bulldogs, but they did not go quietly in this one.
Drake was down by 13 points with 4:33 left, but cut the gap 63-60 on a short jump shot by Rice with 1:24 remaining. That would be as close as the Bulldogs would come.
Creighton went 5 for 6 from the free throw line to secure the victory.