Bears blast Birds, sweep Illinois State

SPRINGFIELD – Missouri State shot 51.4 percent from the field with a season-high 36 field goals and turned back visiting Illinois State, 80-60, here Wednesday night in Missouri Valley Conference pay.

Tulio Da Silva led the Bears (11-13, 5-6 MVC) with 22 points on 10-of-13 field goals with a game-high 8 rebounds. Keandre Cook poured in 18 points off the bench, while Gaige Prim tallied 12 points to the winning cause.

The win not only snapped a three-game conference skid for the Bears but secured a regular-season series sweep of the Redbirds for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign. It also secured MSU’s 48th consecutive winning season at home, improving to 8-4 at JQH Arena this season with three home contests remaining on the 2019-20 slate.

Illinois State (7-16, 2-9), which committed 18 turnovers and surrendered 54 points in the paint, was led by Antonio Reeves and Jaycee Hillsman who scored 17 and 16 points, respectively.

MSU snagged a season-high 12 steals, including 4 by Isiaih Mosley. The Bears also dished out 16 assists, highlighted by 6 takeaways by Josh Hall who returned to the starting rotation for the first time since Nov. 10.

In the first half, the Bears led 10-3 before the first media timeout and snagged 11 offensive rebounds and forced 11 turnovers to build a 42-26 advantage at the intermission. Da Silva had 11 of his game-high 22 points in the opening stanza, while Cook scored six points in the final 1:43 of the period to lead a 10-2 charge by the home side headed into the break.

Missouri State picked up from there to begin the second half on an 11-3 outburst to make it 53-29 just over three minutes into the final period. Including the final two minutes of the first half, it took the Bears just over five minutes to execute a 21-5 run to essentially push the game out of reach.

ISU, which lost for the ninth time in 10 conference contests, would get no closer than 21 the rest of the game, until a 3-pointer by Zach Copeland made it 80-60 with 8 seconds to go.

Missouri State finished 36-of-70 (.514) from the field, including a 60-percent second half. The Bears weren’t particularly sharp from long range, converting just 6-of-27 (.222), but owned a +16 rebounding margin with just 11 turnovers.

The Redbirds converted 21-of-45 (.467) field goals overall, 7-of-19 (.368) from long range and 11-of-16 (.688) at the foul line. Illinois State managed just one offensive rebound and 22 total caroms on the night.

MSU’s 54 points in the paint was by far its highest total of the season.

After a matchup against Southern Illinois (14-10, 8-3 MVC) on Saturday in Carbondale, the Bears return to JQH Arena next Wednesday (Feb. 12) to take on Drake.

Tickets for the Drake game, and all home contests, are available at MissouriStateBears.com, or by visiting the Old Missouri Bank Box Office at JQH Arena, (417) 836-7678, during regular box office hours.