Posted: Sunday, 27 January 2013 5:50PM

Bears hold off Drake, 78-72

Springfield, MO (Missouri State Athletics)  -- For the first time on record, Missouri State (6-15, 4-5 MVC) had four freshmen in the starting lineup, but it was the team's upper classmen who rose to the occasion as the Bears secured the season sweep over visting Drake, 78-72, here Sunday in Missouri Valley Conference action.

Anthony Downing matched a career high with 26 points, while Keith Pickens smashed his career-best scoring effort with 19 points for MSU. Ben Simons led Drake (9-11, 3-6) with 19 points, while Micah Mason netted 17 points behind five 3-pointers.

Missouri State shot a season-best 56.3 percent (27-for-48) from the field, including a collective 15-for-21 (.714) shooting effort in the second half, to run its winning streak to seven straight against Drake and 21-1 all-time at home against the Bulldogs.

Coach Paul Lusk's squad overcame two 11-0 runs by the visitors to snap a four-game skid. The first came late in the first half after the Bears jumped out to a 24-14 lead when Downing knocked down a runner off the glass at the 8:37 mark. Drake then collected a bucket by Seth VanDeest and three straight treys from Mason and Simons to give the visitors a 25-24 lead with just over five minutes left in the opening period.

The Bears collected themselves and ended the scoring drought of more than six minutes when Nathan Scheer knocked down a 3-pointer, and with 92 seconds left in the half. Drew Wilson later collected a Scheer miss and scored up close to put MSU up by four, and Simons dropped in another trey to cut the Bears' lead to 29-28 at the break.

Drake scored the first 11 points of the second half and ended a 14-3 run with a three by Mason at the 16:43 mark that gave the visitors a 42-32 advantage. MSU started the comeback trail from there with Gavin Thurman and Marcus Marshall scoring MSU's first six points of the second stanza in the span of 68 seconds. A Marshall driving layup at the 16-minute mark made it a 42-35 game and gave the Bears needed life.

Downing rattled home a bucket with just over 13 minutes on the clock to make it a 46-43 contest as part of his 18-point second half. Pickens shouldered much of the comeback load from there as he tallied 9 points in the span of less than four minutes to give the Bears the lead. His steal and dunk at the 7:40 mark put the Bears on top again, 56-55.

Drake recaptured the lead briefly on a Chris Hines basket 20 seconds later, but Downing knocked down a baseline jumper and critical 3-pointer over the next minute to extend MSU's lead to 61-57 with 6:19 remaining. MSU would build its lead to as many as eight after that with a pair of Marcus Marshall free throws at the 2:31 mark making it a 69-61 ball game.

The key blow came after a Simons bank shot made it a 70-65 game with 95 seconds left to keep Drake in the hunt. With the shot clock winding down on MSU's next possession, Downing drove right and pitched to Scheer who answered the bell with his second clutch 3-pointer of the game, giving MSU a 73-65 lead with just under a minute to go.

The Bears were able to convert enough free throws from there to hold off another surge by Drake, despite a 3-pointer by Richard Carter at the horn.

Just four days after Drake knocked off nationally-ranked Creighton in Des Moines behind 43 bench points, the Bulldog reserves were held to just 11 points at JQH Arena. DU finished 27-for-59 (.458) from the field, 11-for-28 (.393) from long range and 7-for-14 (.500) at the line. Mark Phelps' club turned the ball over just 9 times with VanDeest contributing 12 points, and Jordan Clarke adding a game-high 11 rebounds.

The Bears out-rebounded Drake, 33-29 with Thurman and Pickens snagging 7 caroms apiece. Marcus Marshall also scored in double figures for the home club with 12 points, while Downing's career night saw him make 10-of-17 field goals and secure a game-high 4 assists.  Pickens' previous career-best was 12 points last season against Wichita State.

MSU was 6-for-11 (.545) from bonus distance and 18-for-27 (.667) at the line with just 10 turnovers on the day.
The Bears will open the second half of the league slate at No. 17 Creighton (17-3, 6-2) on Wednesday night for a 7 p.m. start on FOX Sports Midwest and the Valley TV Network. MSU returns to JQH Arena on Saturday for a 2:05 p.m. grudge match with Evansville on Hall of Fame weekend.

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