Missouri State cut its double-figure deficit down to three with just over a minute to play, but could not catch the Evansville Purple Aces here Wednesday, falling 64-55, in a frustrating Missouri Valley Conference defeat.
Alize Johnson led three Bears (13-5, 3-2 MVC) in double figures with 16 points and 14 rebounds, while Reggie Scurry and Jarrid Rhodes added 10 points apiece.
Evansville (12-6, 2-3 MVC) never trailed and was led by Dru Smith’s 15 points, while Dainius Chatkevicius scored 10 points with a team-high 11 rebounds.
The Bears trailed by seven at the midway point, but a 9-3 run by the Aces before the first media timeout of the second half dug MSU into a 42-31 deficit.
The visitors climbed back within four on free throws by Ronnie Rousseau III at the 8:35 mark and later got within four again on a tip-in by Scurry at 7:50. But it wasn’t until the final minute of play when Johnson knocked down his second triple of the night, that MSU was able to get within 58-55.
But even that wasn’t enough to break Evansville. The Bears would fail to score again, while UE tacked on six free throws in the clutch to secure the win.
MSU was out-rebounded for just the second time this season, coming up on the short end of a 38-31 Aces advantage on the glass
“To get out-rebounded and out-hustled like that was very disappointing,” said MSU head coach Paul Lusk. “We missed several easy layups, and we turned the ball over in some key spots. I’m disappointed in our performance.”
Missouri State struggled out of the gates, missing its first six shots before Scurry, in his first career start, scored one off the glass nearly six minutes in. With just under 10 minutes left in the opening half, Rhodes converted a four-point play to get MSU within 12-10, and a layup by Jarrid Dixon a minute later kept MSU within 14-12.
But an 8-0 run by the Purple Aces that covered two minutes proved to be the difference in the first period. A pair of triples by Ryan Taylor and a steal and layup from John Hall made it a 22-12 game. UE would eventually lead by 11 after a trey by Smith, but Missouri State held the Aces without a field goal for the final four minutes of the opening half and went into the intermission down 31-24.
For the night, MSU was 21-for-58 (.362) from the field, 7-of-22 (.318) from three and 6-of-7 (.857) in its limited chances at the stripe. The Bears also committed 13 turnovers, five in the second half, and snagged seven steals.
Evansville made 22-of-48 (.458) from the field, 4-of-11 (.364) from bonus range, including three by Taylor, and converted 16-of-23 (.696) at the foul line with 14 turnovers.
Taylor finished with 13 points, while Evansville also got 11 points from R.J. Riley.
Noteworthy for the Bears was Johnson’s sixth straight double-double. Obediah Church’s streak of 38 straight starts was broken as he sat out with a nagging knee issue. And, senior Tanveer Bhullar, who had missed the previous four games due to a team rules suspension, returned to action and scored a first-half basket.
The Bears return home Sunday to take on Indiana State at 2 p.m. Tickets for the Indiana State game are on sale now at MissouriStateBears.com or at the Old Missouri Bank Box Office at JQH Arena — (417) 836-7678 – during regular box office hours.