On a day the Creighton women's basketball team had a chance to claim a share of the Missouri Valley Conference title, coach Jim Flanery refused to mention the championship for fear that his team would come out tight against Southern Illinois in its regular-season finale.
In the Bluejays' most recent wins — 67-66 against Drake and 74-69 over Evansville in overtime — they were forced to overcome poor starts just to get in position to share the Valley title.
On Saturday, Creighton was focused out of the gate as four players scored in double figures to help the Bluejays to a 61-42 win in front of 961 at Sokol Arena.
Creighton will share the title — its first in the regular season since 2003 — with Wichita State, a 74-69 winner at Missouri State on Saturday. Both teams finished 15-3 in the Valley.
The Shockers earned the No. 1 seed at the conference tournament this week in St. Charles, Mo., based on their better power-rating number, the Valley's second tiebreaker.
The Bluejays (23-6), who beat Drake 53-38 to win the tourney last year, open at 6 p.m. Friday against the Evansville-SIU winner.
Flanery said this championship had been a work in progress since the beginning of the season.
“To win a championship isn't about being the best team on any one night,” Flanery said. “It's about being the best team over 10 weeks.
“That's a tribute to the stability that we have and the experience that we have and how well our team gets along. ... You can't be good for that long if you've got internal stuff going on, and we didn't.”
Despite Flanery's lack of title talk before the game, junior Sarah Nelson said CU knew what was in front of it.
“We wanted it. We knew if we won this then we were done,” said Nelson, who had 11 points and a game-high eight rebounds. “We wanted it, but we wanted to kind of not make it close like the last two games have been.”
Ally Jensen also scored 11 for Creighton while Alyssa Kamphaus and Alexis Akin-Otiko each added 10.
The Bluejays jumped to a 19-7 lead in the opening 9:29, hitting 8 of their first 14 shots. A 3-pointer by Jensen gave Creighton its biggest lead of the half, 28-14, with 5:51 remaining.
But the Salukis trimmed the lead to single digits after a 6-0 run made it 28-20 with 3:23 left. A jumper by Jensen with seven seconds left would be the only score for either team from then until halftime as the Jays took a 30-20 advantage into the locker room.
SIU cut its deficit to 33-27 less than three minutes into the second half when Jordyn Courier knocked down a 3-pointer. But Creighton responded with a 12-1 run to build a 45-28 advantage with 11:56 left that put the game out of reach.
Jensen and Jasmin Corbin were honored after the game on Senior Day.
Corbin's season was cut short when she tore an ACL in a 58-48 loss to Kansas on Nov. 25.
Two games before that, the guard from Millard West posted career highs with 11 points and six steals in a 63-54 win at South Dakota State. She decided not to pursue a medical redshirt and will graduate in May.
Jensen became the fifth Bluejay to register 200 3-pointers in a career when she drained two against Missouri State on Feb. 14.
Contact the writer: