Historic 2nd quarter powers Lady Bears into tournament championship game

MOLINE, Ill. — Missouri State hit a season-high 11 3-pointers, including four apiece from Danielle Gitzen and Elle Ruffridge, as both players posted career high scoring efforts in an 89-64 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament semifinal victory over UNI Saturday afternoon at TaxSlayer Center.

Gitzen scored 22 points with four assists, while Ruffridge chipped in 14, and the Lady Bears (22-9) lit up the scoreboard despite scoring only 10 points in the first quarter. MSU’s 21st win in the last 23 games propelled the Lady Bears to their 16th MVC Tournament title game, where they own 10 victories. Missouri State takes on No. 21 Drake in that game at 2 p.m. Sunday.

MSU led 7-5 on Alexa Willard’s 3-pointer with 5:49 to go in the first, but didn’t score against until four seconds remained when Ruffridge hit her first of three treys over a 2:21 span for a 20-15 advantage. That opened the flood games to 71 percent shooting the second quarter, when the Lady Bears hit five triples and set a school and MVC Tournament record with 35 points in the quarter for a 45-30 halftime lead.

UNI (20-12) came out of the locker room with an 11-2 run to close the gap to six points, but Gitzen scored seven points in a 9-2 run in response, and Missouri State returned to its halftime margin at 62-47 with 1:33 left after back-to-back buckets from Sydney Wilson.

Missouri State’s starting five opened the fourth quarter on an 11-0 run to lead 75-49, and the Lady Bears kept the margin above 20 points from there, leading by as many as 30 late in the contest.

The Lady Bears shot 50 percent overall and 11-for-18 from 3-point range, and owned a 49-25 rebounding edge. Jasmine Franklin hauled in a career-high 14 boards, moving her to third all-time among MSU freshmen with 239 rebounds on the year. Eleven Lady Bears scored and 11 had at least one rebound. The Panthers shot 37.9 percent and got 21 points from Karli Rucker.

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