CHARLESTON, S.C. — In a game of runs and rejuvenated hope, Missouri State had the ball on the game’s final possession but could not answer a pair of Buffalo free throws with 5.7 seconds remaining in a 75-74 defeat in the Charleston Classic consolation finals here Sunday.
Gaige Prim scored 21 points to lead the Bears (3-4) who dished out a season-high 20 assists on 30 field goals, while Keandre Cook scored 17, and Tulio Da Silva accounted for 15 points and a game-high 9 rebounds.
Buffalo (4-2) was led by Davonta Jordan who put up 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting and 5-of-6 from 3-point range, while Jeenathan Williams scored 17 for the Bulls.
There were 10 lead changes in the second half alone with the Bears going ahead 72-71 on an up-and-under layup from Prim with 1:26 to go. After the Bulls answered with a bucket by Josh Mballa, Missouri State went to Prim again on a great pass from Tyrik Dixon to make it 74-73 with 46 seconds remaining.
On Buffalo’s next possession, the Bears got a defensive stop with Lamont West bringing down a huge rebound on a miss by Antwain Johnson. West got the ball to Dixon who overshot a long pass to Prim down the floor with 27 ticks showing.
Even after the mishap, the Bears’ defense stepped up again, forcing a miss from Jayvon Graves, which Keandre Cook snagged off the glass. Cook, an 87-percent foul shooter coming into the game, was immediately fouled at the 12-second mark.
Cook missed the front end of a one-and-one to open the door again for Buffalo.
On their final possession, the Bulls got the ball to Johnson who nearly traveled before bouncing off MSU’s West whose only offense was standing in his path. West was whistled for the controversial foul, which Johnson soon converted into a 75-74 Buffalo lead after his two free throws dropped in.
Still, the Bears had 5.7 second to salvage the game in its final moments, but Dixon’s pull-up jumper from the elbow rimmed out.
It was Missouri State’s fourth loss of the young season by four points or less.
The Bears had three significant runs in the game against a quick and athletic opponent from the Mid-American Conference. The first came after Buffalo built an 11-3 advantage out of the gates before a Prim-led Missouri State rally saw the Bears go on a 13-2 run — 10 points by Prim — to lead 16-13 over a five-minute stretch in the first.
The Bulls responded with an 18-2 outburst to build their biggest lead of the day, 31-18 with 3:22 left in the first half. But coach Dana Ford’s squad exploded for 12 unanswered points before the halftime break with Cook and Da Silva accounting for six points apiece in the comeback.
Finally, with Buffalo building a 56-47 advantage with 9:28 to play, the Bears used an 18-7 stretch to retake the lead headed into the game’s final four minutes. Dixon accounted for all eight of his points during that key stretch with West converting a layup and Cook providing a layup and the go-ahead triple with 4:05 to play in the game.
Prim finished 10-of-14 from the field with 7 rebounds to account for 21 of MSU’s 22 bench points. The Bears scored 42 of their 74 points in the paint and out-rebounded the Bulls by a 40-37 margin.
The Bears were 30-of-64 (.469) from the field, 5-of-16 (.313) from bonus distance and 9-of-16 (.563) at the foul line with just 10 turnovers.
Buffalo was 27-of-64 (.422) overall, 9-of-29 (.310) from long range and 12-of-17 (.706) at the stripe with 9 turnovers.
The Bears conclude their five-game road swing Friday when they take on LSU in Baton Rouge at 7:00 p.m., in a game that will air on SEC Network+.