Lady Bears open Valley play with 77-63 win at Indiana State

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Four Lady Bears scored in double figures, led by Alexa Willard‘s career-high 23 points, and Missouri State opened the Missouri Valley Conference season with a 77-63 win at Indiana State Friday evening at the Hulman Center.

MSU (5-7, 1-0) picked up its 40th league win in its last 55 tries, limiting itself to 13 turnovers against an Indiana State (2-10, 0-1) club that leads the league in turnovers forced, while owning a 46-35 rebounding margin.

Aubrey Buckley added 12 points, Shameka Ealy scored a season-high 11 points and grabbed six rebounds, Elle Ruffridge tallied a career-high 10 points, and Lee Ann Polowy had a career-high six rebounds. Brice Calip dished out four assists without a turnover.

The Lady Bears scored only one time on their first 11 possessions, but rallied quickly with a 10-0 run split evenly between Ealy and Willard to lead 13-6 with 2:06 left in the first quarter.

Willard would go on to score 11 consecutive MSU points in less than three minutes for a 19-12 lead at the 9:35 mark of the second quarter. The Sycamores cut the Lady Bear advantage to four points on two occasions before six MSU players scored in a closing 15-4 run to take a 37-22 lead into intermission.

The teams alternated big runs in the third quarter, with the Sycamores going on spurts of 10-1 and 8-0, and the Lady Bears countering with runs of 7-0 and 9-3 to complete the period with a 54-43 advantage.

MSU put the game away with a 12-2 start to fourth quarter, with Liza Fruendt‘s 3-pointer putting the Lady Bears ahead 66-45 and moving the senior past Secelia Winkfield for 17th on Missouri State’s career scoring chart.

The Lady Bears wrap up their road trip at Evansville (3-8) on Sunday at 1 p.m.