Bears cruise on Senior Day, avoid play-in game

SPRINGFIELD – Led by a career-high 15 points and 7 rebounds from senior Kabir Mohammed, Missouri State turned back visiting Southern Illinois, 84-59, here Saturday in the regular-season finale for both teams.

The Bears (15-16, 9-9 MVC) started all five of the team’s seniors, and the quintet combined for 61 points – a season high – with Tulio Da Silva and Keandre Cook adding 13 points apiece, Lamont West adding 11 and Ross Owens scoring 9 more.

With the win, the Bears are in the strongest position to secure the No. 6 seed for next week’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis. The NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), which is updated Sunday morning, will make the bracket final and break any potential ties for seeding.  Coming into Saturday’s games, the NET rankings were: Missouri State (129), Valpo (133) and Drake (164) among teams vying for seeds 6-8.

Saturday’s win for Missouri State was its fifth double-figure margin of victory in its last eight contests.

Southern Illinois (16-15, 10-8) was led by a career high 28 points by Lance Jones while Trent Brown scored 10 off the bench for the Salukis.

Missouri State never trailed and rode the momentum of a fast start by Mohammed, who had not played since Feb. 5, to rush ahead 19-10 midway through the first half.

Mohammed scored 12 points and snagged 4 rebounds in the first 20 minutes to pace MSU’s great start. The Bears built a 13-point lead late in the period, and Mohammed’s layup with 3:07 remaining in the opening stanza ignited a 10-0 run by the Bears to turn a three-point lead into a 38-25 advantage. The run also included a dunk by Da Silva and 3-pointers by Hall and Cook.

Southern Illinois ended the opening period on a 6-1 surge that included four free throws to make it a 38-31 contest at the intermission.

In the second half, Jones single-handedly tried to keep the Salukis in the game, scoring all of SIU’s points in the first 10 minutes of the period. But a 15-3 run by Missouri State that started on a 3-pointer by Isiaih Mosley with 11:43 remaining and ended with a triple by West four minutes later, put things out of reach. West’s trey, his second of the game, made it a 69-44 contest.

The Bears would push ahead by as many as 30, their biggest lead of the afternoon, with just over four minutes to go on a three-shot free throw opportunity from Cook.

For the game, the Bears were 26-of-48 (.542) from the field – their second-best shooting performance of the season – and got 19-of-35 field goal makes from their seasons. MSU was also 10-of-18 (.556) from long range, 22-of-29 (.759) at the line.

Coach Dana Ford’s squad also out-rebounded SIU by a 37-20 margin and collected a season-high 14 steals.

Southern Illinois finished 17-of-46 (.370) from the field, 4-of-21 (.190) from beyond the arc, and 21-of-28 (.750) from the line with 23 turnovers.

Should the Bears indeed secure the No. 6 seed, they would open the Valley tournament on Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Enterprise Center.

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