McCormack hits gamewinner with 0.8 seconds left
NORMAL, Ill. -- Illinois State can put on its dancing shoes after a 16-year wait.
The Redbirds completed an amazing run through the Missouri Valley Conference tournament by beating second-seed Indiana State 72-70 in the title game to claim their first NCAA tournament berth since 1989.
Senior Jaci McCormack made a turnaround jumper with 0.8 seconds left to give Illinois State (13-17) its first MVC tournament championship, delighting a home crowd of 2,572 at Redbird Arena.
McCormack, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, scored 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting. She added eight assists and three steals.
"I actually saw a pretty good angle and had a lot of confidence in it," McCormack said. "As soon as it went through the net, I couldn't do anything. I just started screaming."
After the shot, streamers and confetti flew as players collapsed on top of McCormack. But there was still 0.8 seconds left on the clock.
Indiana State's Kristin Weddle attempted to throw the ball the length of the court to senior guard Melanie Boeglin, who didn't catch it cleanly as the buzzer sounded.
"This game was about just heart and guts," said Illinois State coach Robin Pingeton, whose No. 8 Redbirds are the lowest seed to win a MVC tourney title.
The Redbirds took control of the game in the second half and led by as many as 13 before Indiana State (22-8) launched a comeback. Boeglin hit a 3-pointer with 23.4 seconds remaining to tie the game at 70.
"I thought that coming into this tournament our team was on more of a mission than any team in this league, but Illinois State obviously proved us wrong tonight," said Boeglin, who finished with 30 points and was an all-tournament team selection.
Indiana State was denied the tournament championship for the second time in three years.
Reserve Amber Shelton had eight points and 10 rebounds, while Lashawn Johnson worked hard to disrupt Indiana State inside.
Johnson scored seven second-half points and grabbed six rebounds.
"We always talk about being ready to play, and (Johnson) was,'' McCormack said. "She was ready and she contributed huge."
Illinois State will make its fourth appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press