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ST. LOUIS — Ryan Kreklow's four free throws in the final 12 seconds lifted Missouri State past Valparaiso Thursday night at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

Clinging to a three-point lead in the final minute, Kreklow's free throws put the Bears up 81-76. Tevonn Walker answered with a 3 for Valparaiso, but the Crusaders fell 83-79 at the Scottrade Center. 

Missouri State (18-14) advanced to meet SIU (19-12) in Friday's tournament quarterfinals. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the third game of the day.

Walker's 25 points led Valparaiso (15-17). Alize Johnson scored 22 points and grabbed 19 rebounds to lead the Bears.

Northern Iowa 60, Evansville 50: Northern Iowa held the Valley's leading scorer to two points and advanced to Friday's tournament quarterfinals with a win over Evansville Thursday.

Hunter Rhodes scored 14 points and Wyatt Lohaus added 15 off the bench for the Panthers (16-15), who held their opponent to 60 points or less for the 14th time this season. Northern Iowa advanced to meet top-seeded Loyola (25-5) in the noon quarterfinal.

Ryan Taylor, a 6-foot-6 junior guard who led the Valley in scoring at 22.1 points per game, finished with two points in 38 minutes. Taylor scored his only bucket of the game on a floater in the lane with 15:08 to play and finished 1 of 13 from the field.

Evansville (17-15) trailed by seven at the break but went down double digits at the 12:46 mark. Lohaus hit a jumper to put the Panthers up 38-28. Rhodes then found Austin Phyfe for a transition layup and a 12-point edge.

Klint Carlson scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Northern Iowa, which played in the first round of the MVC Tournament for the first time since 2003.

Dru Smith scored 20 points for the Purple Aces. Senior guard Duane "Boo" Gibson added 14 in his final game.

Salukis ready to go: SIU won as many as five in a row, but hasn't lost three in a row this season.

The Salukis don't plan on starting now in the most important game of the season.

"We went to the filling station, got filled back up, and we're ready to go," SIU coach Barry Hinson said. "We've had great preparation. As Patton would say, our hearts and minds are with us right now."

SIU worked out on the court for about 30 minutes Thursday in preparation for Friday night's quarterfinal. The Salukis swept Missouri State and split with Valparaiso, with each team winning at home.

Senior guard Tyler Smithpeters, the MVC's Sixth Man of the Year, was relaxed entering his last go-around at the Scottrade Center.

"Just excited," he said. "Just, really embracing the moment with my teammates. They made this year enjoyable, and one that I won't forget."

Notes: Darrell Brown, who has been nursing a sprained ankle, worked out Thursday and is expected to play when fifth-seeded Bradley takes on fourth-seeded Drake Frday at 2:30 p.m. Brown led the Braves (19-12) in scoring at 13.3 points per game, and was their top assists man with 138 in 31 games. ... Officials wore patches that read "Boomer" to remember former supervisor of officials Jim Bain, who died in November at the age of 85. Bain officiated five Final Four championship games and in the 1972 Munich Olympics.

todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087

On Twitter: @THefferman

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Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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