MSU opens conference play with 64-59 win over Loyola

SPRINGFIELD – A lob from Ryan Kreklow to Reggie Scurry with 1:12 to play gave Missouri State a five-point lead and helped the Bears to a 64-59 win here Friday over visiting Loyola in the Missouri Valley Conference opener for both clubs.

Scurry finished with a career high 18 off the bench to go with 7 rebounds, while teammate Alize Johnson notched a game-high 24 points, 11 rebounds and 5 3-pointers as MSU improved to 11-3 overall.

Loyola (10-3), which came in with a Valley-best 52.2 field goal percentage on the season, was held to just 44.2 percent shooting on the evening and 20 percent from 3-point range. Freshman Cameron Krutwig led the Ramblers with 18 points and 5 rebounds, while Marques Townes added 14 points.

Missouri State led the entire first half, extending its lead to 10 twice, before going into the locker room with a 33-26 halftime lead. But Loyola came out on fire to start the second half, reeling off an 8-0 run to gain its first lead, 34-33, with 17:38 to go.

The lead would change hands five more times before MSU took it back for good on a traditional 3-point play by Scurry with 8:41 to play.  The Ramblers were game, however, rallying within a point of the lead twice more, first on a put-back by Adarius Avery with 8 minutes to play, and later on a hook shot by Krutwig with just three-and-a-half minutes on the clock.

Johnson extended the Bears’ lead to three on a close-range shot around the three-minute mark, and with MSU’s defense kicking into overdrive down the stretch, Kreklow’s lob to Scurry on an in-bound play seemed to put things on ice.

Ronnie Rousseau III added a pair of free throws for MSU with 26 seconds to play, and on Loyola’s next possession, the Ramblers missed a pair of 3-pointers before Scurry gathered in the rebound and was fouled.

The junior made one of two from the stripe to push MSU’s lead to six, and LUC’s final free throw came with less than a second on the clock to give the Bears a five-point win.

Loyola was just 1-of-7 from the field down the stretch.

The victory extended MSU’s record to 25-3 in Valley home openers and 6-1 under head coach Paul Lusk in MVC openers.

MSU out-rebounded Loyola by a 32-30 margin and made good on 8-of-19 (.421) 3-pointers and 22-of-51 (.431) shots overall from the field.

Johnson posted his eighth double-double of the season and 25th of his MSU career, while Kreklow finished with 10 points, 5 assists and a pair of 3-pointers in his second straight start.

The Bears opened the game by connecting on their first six shots to take 15-7 lead just three-and-a-half minutes in. MSU made just 1 of its next 12 attempts from there, but weathered the storm. The home side kept its composure thanks in part to an 8-1 stretch late in the half that started with a dunk by Scurry and concluded with a corner trey by Jarred Dixon that put MSU up 29-20 at the time.

Kreklow’s long three with 1:49 left in the opening half put the home side ahead 32-22, matching MSU’s biggest lead of the game, and eventually went into the intermission with a 33-26 advantage.

The Bears will have a brief holiday break before resuming action Dec. 31 at Valparaiso.  Missouri State returns to JQH Arena on Jan. 4 to take on Northern Iowa at 8 p.m. The national telecast on CBS Sports Net tips off at 8 p.m. The $5 bleacher seat deal will once again be available for the UNI game.