Posted: Saturday, 22 December 2012 11:09PM

Bears drop 8th in a row losing at New Mexico State 71-51



LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Seven-foot-five center Sim Bhullar had a career high 25 points, and New Mexico State (6-6) shot 54 percent from the field to dispatch the Missouri State Bears here Saturday night, 71-51, in non-conference play.

Anthony Downing scored 17, and Gavin Thurman added 10 for the Bears who dropped their eighth in a row to fall to 2-10 on the young season. The game marked MSU's final non-conference game of the campaign, prior to the BracketBusters series in February.

The Aggies overcame 16 turnovers and tallied just five offensive rebounds, but took control of the game with a 12-0 run that started late in the first half. NMSU scored the final 10 points of the first period after the Bears had trimmed an early six-point deficit to 24-23 on a pair of Downing free throws with 5:27 to play. The Aggies then reeled off 10 straight points and extended their 34-23 halftime lead with the first bucket of the second stanza. Marcus Marshall broke the cold spell with a free throw at the 19:11 mark of the second for Missouri State.

MSU's cold spell extended nearly eight-and-a-half minutes without a field goal before Downing got a layup to fall at the 17:18 mark that made it a 42-27 game at the time. On New Mexico State's next trip, Tyrone Watson scored for the Aggies to push the home club's lead to 17, its largest until the final two minutes of the night.

Watson's shot was one of just three field goals New Mexico State would score over a nine-minute span, while the Bears made runs to trim their deficit to 11 three different times.  Thurman scored three times in that span for the Bears, Drew Wilson had a dunk back, and Downing accounted for seven points on the run, including a key trey that made it a 58-47 contest with 5:20 remaining.

But just like the first half, the final five minutes belonged to the Aggies.

With most of its starters still on the floor late, New Mexico State stretched its advantage with three dunks in the final two-and-a-half minutes. The exhausted Bears' defense featured four freshmen on the floor most of the second period, and MSU continued to give NMSU's ball handlers a hard time until it ran out of gas late to let the final margin get away.

The Bears shot an even 33.3 percent in both halves and finished 19-for-57 for the game and just 2-for-14 (.143) from long distance. MSU was 6-of-7 at the charity stripe in the first half, but just 5-of-11 in the second period to finish 11-of-18 (.611) at the stripe. Missouri State also collected 30 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive end, and committed 12 turnovers.

Christian Kirk added 8 points, and Marcus Marshall scored 7 with a team-high 7 boards for the Bears.

New Mexico State, which snapped a two-game skid, was 26-for-48 (.542) from the field and 4-of-13 (.308) from bonus distance. The Aggies were 15-for-22 (.682) from the line, including a career-best 7-for-10 by Bhullar. NM State got 30 points in the paint on the night, compared to just eight by the visitors.

In the first half, the Bears stormed out of the gates with the game's first four points as Downing and Kirk scored with quick transition layups. The Bears extended their advantage to 10-5 after the under-16 media timeout with a short jumper by Thurman and seemed to have their WAC opponent on the ropes.

However, NMSU reeled off the game's next nine points in a span of just two-and-a-half minutes to take a 14-10 advantage. The Bears got back within one on a 3-pointer by Michael Simpson on their next possession and kept the deficit there after a pair of Kirk free throws three minutes later.

Five quick points by by Matej Buovac came out of nowhere for the Aggies who pushed ahead 21-15 at the under-eight media break.  MSU came back with another jumper by Thurman and a pair of charity shots by Downing to trim their deficit to 21-19 before another trey by Buovac gave NMSU a 24-19 lead with just under six-and-a-half to go in the opening period.

Kirk got the Bears closer with a laser-sharp 17-footer and a pair of free throws by Downing that made it a one-point game with 5:27 to go in the stanza. But New Mexico State closed out the half with the aforementioned 10-0 run that included a dunk by Bhullar.
The Bears will have a week off before returning to JQH Arena on Dec. 30 for a 5:35 p.m. date with Southern Illinois in the Missouri Valley Conference opener for both clubs.

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