Lady Bears battle in home loss to South Dakota

SPRINGFIELD — Missouri State suffered its first home loss in 11 months Tuesday evening, falling by an 85-74 final to a South Dakota club that entered the game ranked ninth in the NCAA RPI and receiving votes in both major polls.

The Lady Bears shot a season-best 45.9 percent (28-for-61) from the floor and won the rebounding battle for the sixth consecutive game, but South Dakota (8-1) shot .564 to end MSU’s nine-game home win streak – the second-longest at JQH Arena – and become only the third visitor to win at The Q in the last 20 games.

South Dakota jumped ahead 16-5 after five minutes, but the Lady Bears whittled the lead to six points after a quarter and pulled even at 22-all on back-to-back Shameka Ealy baskets with 7:54 to play until halftime.

Danielle Gitzen scored for another tie before the Coyotes rattled off a 7-0 run to lead 31-24, and Elle Ruffridge’s third 3-pointer of the first half came with 47 seconds left for a 35-34 halftime deficit.

Jasmine Franklin scored on MSU’s first two possessions of the second half, twice giving the Lady Bears one-point leads for a grand total of 31 seconds. The Lady Bears tied the score twice more in a back-and-forth two-minute stretch, and trailed 45-44 with 7:32 left when the Coyotes ripped off an 18-5 run to finish the third quarter with a 63-49 lead.

USD’s lead grew to 67-51 at the 8:34 mark after making 13 of its first 14 shots in the half, but Alexa Willard’s 3-pointer with 5:10 on the clock cut it in half at 69-61. The Coyotes scored the next five points, and MSU never got closer than nine despite Willard knocking down three more triples in the final period.

Gitzen led the Lady Bears with a season-high 17 points to go with five assists, including the 200th of her career. Willard finished with 14 points to move into MSU’s top 50 in career scoring, and Franklin scored 14 with eight rebounds. Franklin also added two blocks, her fourth straight game with multiple stuffs.

Missouri State shot 8-for-15 from beyond the arc, with Willard and Ruffridge combining for seven makes in nine tries.

The Lady Bears are back on the road Sunday for an 11 a.m. Central game at defending WNIT champion Indiana (7-0). The game will air on Big Ten Network.