SPRINGFIELD -- Visiting Valparaiso got 20 points from recently-eligible transfer Lavonte Dority and out-rebounded Missouri State by 18 to claim a 62-54 win over the Bears on Saturday (Dec. 15) at JQH Arena.
The Bears (2-8) got 14 points from Marcus Marshall and 13 apiece from Christian Kirk and Anthony Downing.
MSU trimmed a 12-point second-half deficit to four points twice in the final 62 seconds. Both times, the Bears got to the line with the potential of making it a one-possession game, but failed to convert charity shots.
The Crusaders (7-3), the preseason favorite in the Horizon League, also got 15 points and 9 rebounds from Ryan Broekhoff and 10 points from Bobby Capobianco.
Valpo quickly overcame a 26-24 halftime deficit with a 4-0 run to start the second half as Broekhoff's 3-pointer less than a minute into the second period gave the Crusaders a 28-26 lead. Downing tied the game 38 seconds later with a quick jumper for the Bears, but VU got another trey from Dority on its next trip to take a three-point advantage again.
From there, Kirk drew the home club back within 31-30 on a jumper off a designed in-bounds play at the 17:55 mark before a 6-0 run by the Crusaders over the next five-and-a-half minutes stretched the visitors' lead to 37-30. Missouri State held Valpo to just three field goals in the final 16:17 of the contest, but the Crusaders lured the Bears into a chippy physical battle to try to win the game at the line.
Tomie Armona's steal and layup brought MSU back within five at the 12-minute mark, but he was subsequently whistled for a foul 31 seconds later, MSU's ninth of the second half. Dority made the two foul shots, but a video review by the officials discovered a flagrant foul on Dority earlier in the possession, which sent Aromona to the line for a pair of charity makes. MSU, however, failed to take advantage of the extra possession, and Broekhoff's third trey of the night soon gave the visitors a 42-34 lead.
Valpo stretched that advantage to 12 points over the next four-and-a-half minutes when Ben Boggs capped an 8-1 run with a rattled-in 3-pointer from the right wing with six-and-a-half minutes to play.
But the Bears responded well as Marshall hit a layup with just over five minutes to go, and Nathan Scheer reeled off five straight MSU points, capped by a long ball just shy of the three-minute mark to make it 49-42. Valparaiso would attempt 18 free throws in the final three minutes, but missed three of their first six attempts to open the door. The Bears capitalized with quick baskets by Kirk and Marshall, and then a three-ball by Marshall at the 1:18 mark made it a 54-49 contest.
With 62 seconds to go, Downing knocked down a 3-pointer to bring the Bears back within 56-52, and after a pair of free throw misses by Erik Buggs, MSU got the ball back. Kirk was then fouled on the way to the basket, but missed the front end of a one-and-one to keep the margin at four with 36 ticks to play.
Broekhoff answered two seconds later with another pair of charity shots for the Crusaders, but Downing scored behind a lightning-quick slash to the rim and a foul for a chance at a traditional three-point play with 29 ticks to go. However, the Bears once again missed a key charity shot, and the margin remained 58-54. Valparaiso was able to convert its final four free throws to make the final margin 62-54 as the Bears dropped their sixth straight contest.
Valparaiso finished 25-for-36 (.694) from the free throw line to take advantage of 29 Missouri State fouls. The Crusaders were 15-for-37 (.405) overall from the field and 7-for-21 (.333) from long range, while out-rebounding the Bears by a 37-19 margin.
The Bears were 22-for-50 (.440) from the field, 4-of-6 (.667) from bonus distance and 6-for-12 (.500) at the line. MSU committed just 11 turnovers, but had eight mishaps in the second half.
In the first half, a dunk by Kirk with 2:39 left in the period put Missouri State on top for the first time and helped the Bears take a 26-24 lead at the break. After falling behind 9-4 just under six minutes into the game, the Bears started climbing back. A Scheer free throw and running layup in transition by Marshall cut the MSU deficit to two points before a jumper by Anthony Downing tied the game, 9-9, at the 10:39 mark.
The Crusaders needed only 22 seconds to retake the lead as a Broekhoff trey and salute the JQH crowd pushed VU up by three. The lead then teetered between one and three for the visitors over the next three minutes before a Dority 3-pointer and pick-and-roll basket by Capobianco pushed Valparaiso ahead 19-13 with just over seven minutes left in the opening period.
A jumper and 3-pointer by Marshall, and a hook shoot and dunk by Kirk over the next three minutes pushed the Bears ahead 24-22, before a pair of free throws by Keith Pickens with 1:02 left gave Missouri State its 26-24 margin at the break.
The Bears now head to Alabama A&M (2-6) on Tuesday for a non-conference battle with the Bulldogs at 7 p.m., in Huntsville.