ST. CHARLES, Mo. — Last weekend St. Louis came down with Arch Madness when the Missouri Valley Conference held their men’s basketball conference tournament at Scottrade Center, in which Northern Iowa ultimately reigned supreme. This weekend, it is the women’s turn to showcase their talents and fight for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The MVC Women’s Basketball Tournament will be held at the Family Arena in St. Charles starting on Thursday afternoon and culminating in a championship game Sunday at 2 p.m.
Much like their male counterparts, Wichita State enters the conference tourney as the number one seed after finishing the regular season 17-1 in MVC play. They are looking for their third straight MVC tournament title, after winning in 2013 and 2014. Will they be able to do what the Shockers couldn’t last weekend?
This is the final year the tournament is slated to be played at the Family Arena– the tournament moves next year to Quad Cities. Tickets can be purchased for $12 for general admission or $17 for a reserved seat.
All games will also be streamed through ESPN 3 and postgame press conferences can be seen via Youtube. Links will be posted here each day along with recaps.
The top six seeds get first round byes, so the Day 1 of the tournament serves much like a pair of play-in games for the 8-and-9 and 7-and-10 matchups.
Thursday Session I:
#8 Bradley (6-23, 5-13 MVC) vs. #9 Loyola (5-24, 3-15) 4 p.m.
Final- Loyola 67, Bradley 55
The Loyola Ramblers knocked off the Bradley Braves 67-55 in the opening game of the MVC Tournament. Loyola capitalized on a poor shooting night by the higher-seeded Braves to build a 9-point first-half lead and defeat Bradley for the first time in three tries this season. Despite getting to the free-throw line for 36 attempts and a holding plus-13 turnover margin, Bradley could not overcome the shooting disparity.
The final shooting totals had Loyola nearly doubling-up Bradley– 46.8 percent to 26.7 percent. The Braves actually shot better than their season average in the second half at 38.7 percent but paired with their nightmarish 13.8 percent first-half performance and a hot-shooting 63.2 percent second half for Loyola.
The Ramblers were led by four players in double figures. Starting Forward Taylor Manuel scored 15 points and grabbed 9 rebounds and starting guards Bailey Farley and Taylor Johnson scored 13 and 16 points, respectively. Destiny Washington came off the bench to score 11 points. The other starting guard, Becca Smith, led the team with 8 assists and grabbed 9 rebounds.
It was not all smiles for Loyola, though. They are unlikely to advance further with another 31-turnover game.
Bradley’s lone double-digit scorer was starting forward Tamya Sims. Sims scored a game-high 19 points while racking up 9 rebounds and 4 blocks.
It was easier to find water in the Sahara than points for Bradley in the first half. The Braves only made four shots from the floor in the first 20 minutes of play and fell behind Loyola 27-18 at the break. Bradley took a 11-10 lead just under six minutes in on a pair of Sims free throws, but only scored seven points the rest of the way. Loyola didn’t set the world on fire from the floor but did shoot about their season average at 37 percent. The Ramblers used a 15-3 run to push their lead to as much as 11 points. The damage at half could have been far worse had Loyola not turned the ball over 17 times and Bradley not gone to the line for double the free throw attempts, scoring half their total points there.
In the second half, it looked like Loyola was going to run away and hide as they expanded their lead to as much as 18 points and led by 17 with 7:46 to play. But, over the next two minutes the Braves went on a 9-0 run and cut the lead to just six points on a Sims jumper with 5:43 to play. That would be as close as they would get. Sims hit her only 3-pointer of the game with just over three minutes remaining to make the deficit just six points again, but Smith answered with a 3-pointer of her own and the Ramblers iced the game with free throws late.
Loyola next will take on top-seeded Wichita State in the first game of the quaterfinals on Friday. Tip-off is scheduled for 12:07 p.m.
There was no postgame press conference because of the awards presentation between the games.
Watch replay of game on ESPN 3
#7 Evansville (11-18, 6-12) vs. #10 Illinois State (2-27, 2-16) 7 p.m.
Final- Evansville 55, Illinois State 51
The Evansville Purple Aces held off the Illinois State Redbirds for the 55-51 win to advance to the quarterfinals on Saturday. Evansville led for more than 34 minutes of the game but never had more than a nine-point lead. The Aces shot just 28 percent for the game, but a huge game from their senior Mallory Ladd carried them to victory.
Ladd scored and rebounded the most of any player on Day 1 of the MVC Tournament, finishing with 27 points –5-of-7 from 3-point range– 14 rebounds and the first double-double of the tournament. Sophomore guard Sarah Dickey also made it into double figures with 15 points. Both had perfect nights at the free-throw line going 6-for-6 and 8-for-8, respectively.
Despite shooting only shooting 27 percent from the floor, Evansville took a 25-19 lead into halftime. Illinois State shot a slightly more palatable 30 percent, but also shot themselves in the foot with 11 turnovers to the Aces’ three, accounting for the 10-0 points-off-turnovers discrepancy (the game finished 19-0 in Evansville’s favor). If it is possible to play good team basketball on offense while having the worse shooting half and making only nine field goals, Evansville did it. They recorded an assist on all but one of their nine baskets.
Ladd already had a double-double by halftime. The stretch-four scored 16 points including going 4-of-5 from 3-point range and hauled in 10 rebounds.
The Redbirds made enough runs in the second half to keep the game in doubt and even took the lead twice near the middle of the second half. Evansville made only one field goal in the opening 10 minutes of the second half paving the way for Illinois State to take the lead 33-32 on a Molly Sims 3-pointer, their first since the 17:11 mark of the first half. Another jumper by Sims gave them the 35-34 lead with eight minutes to go. But, Ladd proceeded to knock down a trey on the ensuing possession, and the Aces were off to the races again. This time it was a 10-0 run that all but ended the game.
Ulltimately, 9 second half turnovers, 20 for the game, and sending Evansville to the foul line 20 times in the second half, where they shot 87.5 percent for the game, was too much for even the Redbirds’ superior shooting performance to overcome.
The win was extra special for Evansville as it was their first in tournament play since 2009 and the first under Head Coach Oties Epps. There is not much time to celebrate though as they take on the two seed, Drake, Friday at 6 p.m. Drake beat the Aces by 17 and 9 in their two regular season meetings.
Watch replay of game on ESPN 3