Lady Bears run away from Valpo, 83-60

SPRINGFIELD — Seniors Liza Fruendt and Aubrey Buckley combined for 50 points, including nine each during a decisive 24-0 third-quarter run to lead the Missouri State Lady Bears to an 83-60 victory over Valparaiso Friday evening at JQH Arena.

MSU’s ninth win in its last 11 games gave the Lady Bears (10-8, 6-1) their best MVC start since beginning 2004-05 campaign 8-1, while Valpo fell to 9-8 and 2-4 in Valley games.

Fruendt poured in a season-high 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting, adding five assists and three steals, while Buckley shot 6-for-10 for a season-best 17 points. Danielle Gitzen finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals, and Brice Calip grabbed a career-high nine boards to help MSU finish with a 48-36 lead in that category.

Missouri State never trailed in the contest, but the outcome was very much in doubt early in the third quarter after the Crusaders pulled within a possession at 38-35 just 31 seconds into the period. Buckley’s score jump-started a 24-0 MSU run that took just under six minutes and included six Valpo turnovers, culminating with a steal and score from Gitzen with 3:15 left for a 62-35 lead.

The MSU defense forced 14 second-half turnovers and held the Crusaders to 35.5 percent shooting, while the Lady Bears shot 41 percent and dished out 19 assists compared to a season-low seven turnovers.

The Lady Bears jumped ahead 18-5 on a Shameka Ealy 3-pointer with 2:03 left in the first quarter, and the visitors whittled the margin to three points twice in the second period, with each time being met by a Fruendt bucket in response. Buckley’s 3-pointer with 1:39 left before the break made it 37-29, and Valpo chopped the lead in half to 37-33 at intermission.

MSU hosts Loyola (3-14, 1-5) at 2 p.m. Sunday in the annual We Back Pat game, while Kellie Harper will aim for her 250th career win as a head coach. A silent auction for Pat Summitt memorabilia will take place in the JQH Arena concourse, and donations will be accepted for the  Pat Summitt Foundation, with proceeds going towards finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.