Solid Second Half Helps Bears Slip Past Evansville, 62-61
Courtesy Missouri State Athletics
Springfield, Mo. -- Missouri State (7-16, 5-6) overcame an 11-point second-half deficit and a late charge by visiting Evansville to claim a 62-61 victory here Saturday as the Bears claimed their second conference comeback win in a week.
Marcus Marshall led three MSU players in double figures with 14 points while Christian Kirk scored 12, and Nathan Scheer contributed 11. Colt Ryan scored a game-high 24 for the Purple Aces (13-10, 6-5) with fellow senior Ned Cox adding 12 for the visitors.
A week after the Bears rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat Drake in Springfield, Paul Lusk's club found the same magic at JQH Arena. A 12-2 run by UE in the first five minutes of the second half gave Evansville a 38-27 lead, its largest of the afternoon. The Bears managed just one field goal in the first six-and-a-half minutes of the second stanza but started climbing back with a jumper by Gavin Thurman and a 3-pointer by Marshall in less than a minute to make it 38-32.
MSU would close the gap to three points twice and two points twice over the next eight minutes and began their winning surge at the most critical junction in the contest. A reverse layup by Kirk brought the Bears back within 54-52 with just over five minutes on the clock before Ryan stepped up with a clutch trey for the Aces to extend Evansville's lead back to five with 4:41 to go.
The Bears responded with a gut-check 7-0 outburst over the next two minutes as Marshall scored a pair of free throws and a leaner off the glass before a solid 3-pointer by Scheer put the Bears on top for the first time since late in the first half. Scheer's third trifecta of the game made it a 59-57 contest with 2:42 remaining.
Ryan tied the game up with a couple of free throws at the 1:50 mark and then gave Evansville a 61-59 lead with a jumper with a minute to go. But the Bears called a timeout with 52.3 seconds left and got another monumental 3-pointer moments later when Anthony Downing drained a long ball from the left wing to give Missouri State a 62-61 lead.
Evansville had three more cracks at the lead down the stretch, but the Bears' defense rose up in the clutch. A contested Egidijus Mockevicius miss with 24 seconds left was corralled by Downing who pitched the ball to Marshall. The MSU freshman, who was 9-for-11 at the line on the afternoon, then missed the front end of the one-and-one, giving the ball back to the Aces. With 6 seconds left, UE got the ball to Ryan who missed a jumper out of a double team on the left baseline. Pickens snagged the rebound with 3.2 ticks to go. Pickens would miss his one-and-one free throw chance to open the door once more for Evansville. Mockevicius got the rebound with 2.9 seconds left and called timeout for one last Evansville chance. The Bears, however, snuffed out the final run and forced Cox into an off-balance miss at the rim as the horn sounded with Pickens providing ample resistance.
Missouri State improved to 6-6 at home, won for the first time this season when trailing at the half and moved into a tie for fifth place in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Bears overcame a 27-percent first-half shooting effort by making 13-of-24 shots in the second half to finish 19-for-46 (.413) for the game. The Bears were 5-for-15 (.333) from bonus distance with all five makes in the second period. MSU was also 19-for-26 (.731) at the line with a season-high 7 blocked shots and just 10 turnovers.
Missouri State out-rebounded the Aces 16-15 in the second half, but lost the overall battle for the boards, 34-31. The Bears also outscored Evansville off the bench, 30-10 and held UE to just 8 second-chance points.
Downing, who led the Bears with 4 assists, scored 9 points to snap his streak of 19 straight double-figure scoring games at home. Pickens tallied a team-high 6 rebounds and joined Gavin Thurman in the scoring column with 7 points apiece for MSU.
Marty Simmons' club finished 23-for-57 (.404) from the field, 5-for-15 from downtown and 10-for-14 (.714) at the line with 8 turnovers. Troy Taylor snagged a game-high 7 rebounds to help Evansville's cause.
In the first half, the Bears trailed by four points twice, but turned an 11-7 deficit at the 11:18 mark into an 18-13 advantage less than six minutes later. The 11-2 run was sparked by Pickens who led the gray-clad Bears with six points in the stretch and posted game-highs 7 points and 4 rebounds in the opening half. Thurman converted all three free throws on a 3-point foul in the run as well.
Evansville, which started the day in fourth place in the Valley standings, reeled off six unanswered points from there to regain a 19-18 advantage before Marshall pushed the home club back on top at the 3:07 mark with a pair of charity shots. Thurman knocked down a 14-footer after that, and Kirk ended a 5-0 Bears' sequence with a free throw that made it 23-20 with just under two minutes to go. Evansville's Troy Taylor and Jaylon Moore scored just before the intermission for the Aces to mark the eighth lead change of the first half and give UE a 24-23 advantage at the break.
MSU takes to the road for a pair of MVC games next week, starting with a 7 p.m. start at Northern Iowa (12-11, 5-6) on Tuesday in a game featured on ESPN3.com. The Bears then travel to Wichita State on Saturday for a 6:30 p.m. tip on FOX Sports Midwest and the MVC TV Network.
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