Missouri State held Indiana State without a field goal for the final 4:37 of the game and closed on a 9-0 run for a hard-fought 69-56 Senior Day victory Saturday afternoon at JQH Arena.
Missouri State’s seventh consecutive win moved the Lady Bears to 19-10 overall and 15-3 in Missouri Valley Conference play, the team’s best MVC record since a 15-3 mark in the 2004-05 season. MSU will take the No. 2 seed into next week’s MVC Tournament in Moline, Ill., opening at 6 p.m. Friday against the winner of Thursday’s contest between No. 7 Bradley and 10th-seeded Evansville.
The Lady Bears never trailed and looked to be headed for a runaway victory after bolting to an 18-5 lead with 2:16 left in the first quarter. MSU uncharacteristically committed seven turnovers in the next six minutes, allowing the Sycamores (11-18, 9-9) to close the gap to 25-24 with 6:06 to play until halftime.
Alexa Willard scored the next five points for a 30-24 lead, and the Lady Bears led 35-32 at halftime before the Sycamores closed to 35-34 and 41-40 in the third quarter. Back-to-back buckets by Emily Gartner and two Danielle Gitzen free throws pushed the margin to 47-40 with 2:54 left in the third, and ISU scored on the first possession of the fourth quarter to pull within 49-46.
Gitzen scored twice around a Shameka Ealy 3-pointer for a 7-0 run and 56-46 lead with 7:40 to play, and ISU countered with back-to-back 3-pointers to trail 56-52 with 5:47 left. It stayed a two-possession game until Liza Fruendt hit a free throw with 1:42 left to make it 63-56, Willard followed with an offensive board and bucket, and Gitzen and Fruendt each sank a pair of free throws in the last 39 seconds to seal the win.
Buckley finished with 15 points and 11 boards for her fourth double-double of the year and sixth in her career, while Gitzen logged her first double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Fruendt scored 13, passing Tyonna Snow for ninth on the MSU career list.
The Lady Bears shot 42 percent for the game and 18-for-25 at the foul line, holding Indiana State to 38 percent overall while owning a 47-24 rebounding advantage.