NORMAL, Ill. – Keandre Cook drew a charge and knocked down two clutch 3-pointers, all in the final two minutes to help lead Missouri State to a 67-63 road win in Missouri Valley Conference play Tuesday at Illinois State.
Cook finished with a game-high 22 points, including four 3-pointers, to pace four MSU players in double figures. Gaige Prim also notched 12 points, while Isiaih Mosley and Tulio Da Silva posted 11 points apiece to help the Missouri State (8-8, 2-1 MVC) cause.
The Bears extended a five-point halftime lead to a 40-29 less than four minutes into the second half, using an eight-point outburst by Da Silva out of the intermission to take their biggest lead of the game.
Missouri State’s 11-point lead was short-lived with the Redbirds (6-9, 1-2 MVC) calling a timeout and responding with an 8-3 outburst of their own over the next two minutes to make it 43-37 with 14 minutes to play.
Mosley and Prim answered with quick buckets to give the visitors a 10-point edge once more. The teams then volleyed scores before Lamont West’s 3-pointer with just under 10 minutes remaining gave the Bears a 53-45 advantage.
Illinois State made one last run over the next eight minutes, with Antonio Reeves igniting an 11-2 scoring run by the Redbirds to return the lead back to the home team. Reeves, who led ISU with 16 points, gave Illinois State a 56-55 advantage with a transition layup with 3:55 to play.
Neither team scored again until Prim buried a pair of clutch free throws for MSU with 2:41 to go, briefly returning the lead to coach Dana Ford’s squad. Then ISU’s Ricky Torres got the lead back for his side with a pair of foul shots 30 seconds later, making it 58-57.
But Cook took over down the stretch, drawing a charge on Illinois State star Zach Copeland and burying his third triple of the contest moments later. Down the stretch, he rose up again, knocking down another trey at the 1:18 mark to push MSU ahead by five, and responding to a bucket by Reeves with two pivotal free throws in the final 19 seconds.
Torres gave Illinois State fresh hope with a 3-point basket with 13 seconds to play that made it 65-63, but Missouri State’s Lamont West iced the final two free throws of the night to lock down the four-point victory.
West finished 5-of-5 at the charity stripe to pace a 16-for-19 (.842) effort at the free throw line by the Bears. MSU was also 22-of-62 (.355) from the field, 7-of-24 (.292) from long range, and committed just 9 turnovers.
Tyrik Dixon handed out a season-high 7 assists, while Isiaih Mosley led the Bears with a career-high 8 rebounds.
For its part, Illinois State out-rebounded the Bears by a narrow 35-34 margin and converted 23-of-49 (.469) shots from the field, 7-of-22 (.319) from beyond the arc, and 10-of-17 (.588) at the line.
Joining Torres in double figures for Illinois State were Copeland with 15, Torres with 12 and Jaycee Hillsman with 11.
In the first half, Missouri State overcame a sluggish start by roaring past the Redbirds over the last nine minutes of the half. After Illinois State built a quick 18-7 lead, Missouri State outscored the home squad 23-7 the rest of the way, using solid post defense to rack up 7 steals and converting 4-of-6 field goals down the stretch to lead 30-25 at the intermission.
The Bears return to JQH Arena on Saturday, Jan. 11 to play Northern Iowa at 3 p.m.