Missouri State (5-11, 3-1) got 24 points from Anthony Downing and held visiting Illinois State (9-7, 0-4) to a season-low scoring total in a 62-55 victory over the Redbirds here Tuesday night in Missouri Valley Conference play.
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The Bears led by as many as 12 in the second half and held on late as Downing made 6-of-8 free throws in the final 68 seconds to secure MSU's second conference win in a row. Downing also contributed a career-high 8 assists, while Marcus Marshall added 14 points for the Bears.
MSU used a 13-0 run late in the opening period to overcome their largest deficit of the game. After a layup by Johnny Hill with just under five minutes to go in the first half gave the Redbirds a 20-17 advantage, Downing scored 9 points during a three-minute, 14-second stretch to give the home club a 30-20 lead.
ISU trimmed the double-figure deficit to 32-25 at the half and then rallied around senior Jackie Carmichael to open the second period. Carmichael, who finished with 21 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, scored Illinois State's first 9 points of the second period, including a thundering dunk at the 15:55 mark that made it a 38-34 contest.
On the dunk, Hill was whistled for a technical foul for taunting, and the Bears made one of the two technical shots. Moments later, Kaza Keane knocked down a trey for the Redbirds to bring ISU back within 39-37.
The Bears, however, had an answer and embarked on a 10-0 scamper over a four-minute stretch to increase their lead to 49-37. Nathan Scheer knocked down a pair of key 3-pointers, Marshall sliced through a 17-footer, and Downing answered Keane's trey with a driving layup. The cumulative effect of the run caused ISU coach Dan Muller to use a timeout with 10:12 to go.
The Valley's preseason No. 2 team responded quickly as Hill scored on a traditional 3-point play, Bryant Allen nailed a floater, and Carmichael broke through with three points on the 8-0 run by the Redbirds in the span of less than three minutes.
Ahead 49-45 with 7:26 to play, Downing ended Illinois State's rally and seemed to will the Bears to victory from there. At the 7:08 mark, he drove to the basket and scored a contested layup. After ISU trimmed its deficit to 53-50 with four-and-a-half to go, Downing got to the rim again and pushed the home club ahead by five. And after Carmichael made it a 56-52 game with 71 seconds remaining, it was Downing who answered the call down the stretch, making 6-of-8 free throws in the clutch, including four in a row to seal the victory.
Missouri State finished 22-for-47 (.468) from the field after producing at a 54.2 percent clip in the first half. The Bears were an efficient 7-for-16 (.438) from long range and made 11-of-18 (.611) free throws -- of which 10 attempts came in the final 83 seconds. Paul Lusk's troops turned the ball over 11 times and matched the larger Redbirds on the glass, 33-33.
Illinois State, which also got 14 points from Hill, was 22-for-55 (.400) from the field and 4-of-17 (.235) from 3-point range, five treys below their average in Valley play. ISU was also 7-for-12 (.583) at the line and tallied 13 turnovers.
The Bears will conclude the two-game home stand on Friday when they entertain the No. 11/13 Creighton Bluejays at 7:05 p.m. Tickets for the Bears matchup against the defending MVC champions are available now at MissouriStateTix.com or at the Chevy Pickup Window at JQH Arena during regular box office hours. Tickets are also available by phone at (417) 836-7678.