Missouri State (8-19, 6-9 MVC) got 20 points from Anthony Downing and 8 rebounds from Keith Pickens, but home standing Southern Illinois (11-15, 4-11) had an answer for every Bears' run in a 62-54 Salukis' win here on Saturday in Missouri Valley Conference play.
The Bears started the second half on a 10-2 run to trim a 31-22 halftime deficit to one. Downing notched 9 of the Bears' points in the first 3 minutes, 39 seconds of the second stanza that made it a 33-32 contest.
Southern rallied from there with 6 unanswered points to make it 39-32, including 4 by Jeff Early who shared game-high honors with Downing with his 20 points for SIU.
Just over seven minutes into the second half, Christian Kirk etched the Bears closer with a 15-footer on the right baseline, and Dorrian Williams converted a layup after a hustle play by Pickens who tipped a contested rebound six times before dishing to Williams to make it 39-36 at 11:47.
A minute later, Gavin Thurman made it a 40-38 game with a 20-footer from the left wing. Williams returned to the line at the 10:05 mark with a chance to tie the game, but missed both ends. The Bears fought for two offensive rebounds after the second miss, but could not convert. SIU then reeled off 10 unanswered points to give the Salukis their biggest lead of the night, 50-38, at the five-minute mark.
The Bears hung around and cut their deficit to six twice more. With just over a minute to go and the SIU possession in jeopardy with a diminishing shot clock, Downing gathered a steal and headed down the sideline for a dunk to bring the Bears back within four. But a late whistle called Downing out of bounds on the drive to the bucket, nullifying the basket. SIU converted 3-of-4 free throws thereafter and stretched it back to a 9-point lead.
In the final minute, SIU made 10-of-12 charity shots and finished 16-for-20 (.800) for the game from the line.
Kirk had 13 points off the bench to help MSU's efforts. The Bears had just 10 turnovers, including 4 in the second half, and shot 43.5 (20-for-46) percent from the field. The Bears were just 3-for-16 (.188) from beyond the arc and finished 11-for-14 (.786) at the line.
The teams split 50 rebounds, 25-25.
SIU also got 11 points from Desmar Jackson. The Salukis were 22-for-43 (.512) from the field and 2-of-12 (.167) from downtown with 8 turnovers.
Missouri State spotted the Salukis the first 10 points of the game and outscored them over the last 15 minutes of the first half, only to trail 31-22 at the intermission.
After the early 10-0 deficit, MSU began clawing back into the game and made it a 12-9 contest with a layup by Downing on a great pass from Pickens at the 11:12 mark.
The SIU lead teetered between 5 and 7 points until a 3-pointer by Kendal Brown-Surles with just over three minutes left in the opening period made it 25-17. Davante Drinkard added a hook shot on SIU's next possession to push the home club's lead to 10 and match SIU's largest lead of the half.
MSU reeled off the game's next 5 points with a 3-pointer by Marshall and a short jumper by Downing that made it a 27-22 game with 1:17 to play. But Early scored the last four points of the half for SIU to stretch the home lead back to 9 at the break.
The Bears return to JQH Arena on Tuesday for a White Out game against Northern Iowa (16-11, 9-6) at 7:05 p.m. Tickets for the second-to-last home contest of the season are on sale now at MissouriStateTix.com or during regular box office hours at the Chevy Pickup Window at JQH Arena and by phone at (417) 836-7678.
Game 27 - http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/