Missouri State scratches and claws for overtime win over Loyola

SPRINGFIELD – A 16-0 run through the heart of the second half helped Missouri State (15-9, 6-5 MVC) erase a 10-point deficit and ultimately propelled the Bears to an 82-81 overtime win over visiting Loyola here Tuesday in Missouri Valley Conference play.

Austin Ruder led MSU’s scoring parade with a season-high 22 points, including six 3-pointers, while Jarred Dixon added 15 and Alize Johnson posted his 14th double-double behind 14 points and 12 rebounds. Obediah Church also added 12 points and 8 boards for MSU, which played its third straight overtime game – all decided by one point.

Milton Doyle led LUC with 21 points, including 12 in the second half, while Aundre Jackson posted 17 off the bench for the Ramblers.

After Church scored the first basket of the second half to help MSU cut into a three-point halftime deficit, the Ramblers (16-8, 6-5) hit the home club with nine unanswered points to lead 46-36 with just under 17 minutes to go.

The Bears immediately turned to Ruder on the next possession who drained his fifth triple of the night to resuscitate the home side before the first media timeout of the second half. The teams traded baskets over the next 60 seconds before Missouri State’s defense began kicking into overdrive.

Doyle’s fade-away jumper at the 15:26 mark would be Loyola’s last points for more than 10 minutes and the team’s last field goal for the next eleven-and-a-half minutes. Meanwhile, coach Paul Lusk’s team methodically began chipping away to the tune of a 16-0 run.

By the time Dequon Miller closed out the run with a pair of free throws with 4:47 to play, Missouri State held a 61-52 lead and all the momentum on its side.

But Loyola would not surrender its three-game win streak without a fight, turning to Doyle time and again down the stretch to keep his team within reach. Doyle’s 3-pointer with 19.8 seconds left in regulation made it a 68-65 game.

Ruder made two free throws on MSU’s next possession, before Jackson made it a 70-67 game with two foul shots for the Ramblers with 7.5 ticks to go. The ensuing in-bound play was tipped out of bounds and after a lengthy review overturned the initial call of Missouri State’s possession, the Bears fouled Donte Ingram with 4.7 to play. Ingram answered the call with two makes, and MSU got the ball in Miller’s hands on its final possession.

The Ramblers quickly fouled Miller, but he missed the first free throw before making the second and making it a 71-69 contest. LUC went the length of the floor in the final 3.9 and got a game-tying layup at the buzzer by Clayton Custer, who finished with 15 points.

In overtime, the Bears battled from three points down in the final 51 seconds to salvage the win. Dixon provided the push with a clutch 3-pointer and driving floater in the lane to give MSU a 3-point lead midway through extra time. After Doyle knocked down a trey at the two-minute mark for Loyola, Dixon’s aggressive play ultimately paid off, with an “and one” opportunity with 38 ticks showing. His bucket got the Bears within 81-80, but he missed the ensuing free throw.

MSU chose not to foul on Loyola’s final possession, a decision that ultimately paid off. Ruder blocked a jumper by Tyson Smith just before the shot clock expired, leading to a fast-break for MSU in which Johnson was fouled near mid court. The five-time Valley Newcomer of the Week went to the line with 5.1 to go and made both free throws to give MSU a one-point advantage.

Doyle’s desperation 3-pointer at the horn missed wide left, and the Bears improved to 11-3 at JQH Arena this season with the overtime victory.

The Bears became just the third MVC team in the last 20 years to play three straight overtime contests and matched a program high with their fifth overtime game of the campaign.

Missouri State finished 23-for-53 (.434) from the field and 7-of-17 (.412) from long range. The team’s 76.3 percent effort from the free throw line was the difference, making 29-for-38 on the night and 17-of-22 in the second half, to ice the win.

Missouri State also finished with a 35-30 rebounding advantage and blocked six LUC shots – including three blocks by Church – and tallied eight steals.

Loyola was an even 30-for-60 (.500) on the night, made 7-of-19 (.368) from 3-point range and converted 14-of-17 (.824) at the stripe with 15 turnovers. The Ramblers accounted for nearly half their scoring – 40 points worth – in the paint.

In the first half, Ruder went 4-for-4 from 3-point range and helped the Bears climb out to a five-point lead midway through the opening period. The five-point advantage held until the five-minute mark when the Ramblers embarked on a 10-0 run – including 8 points by Custer – over a two-minute span. MSU recovered to get within three at the intermission, thanks in part to timely free throw shooting from Johnson and Dixon before the break.

MSU takes to the road Saturday against Evansville (10-13, 1-9) at 3 p.m., to begin a two-game Valley road swing. The Bears return home on Feb. 12 against Northern Iowa at 3 p.m.

Tickets for the UNI game – and all remaining home games — may be purchased at the Old Missouri Bank Box Office at JQH Arena or by phone at (417) 836-7678. Regular-priced tickets are also available anytime at MissouriStateBears.com.