Ypsilanti, MI (Missouri State Athletics) -- A furious comeback by Missouri State (9-20) in the final six minutes pushed the visiting Bears past Eastern Michigan, 57-54, here Saturday in the Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters.
Anthony Downing scored 16, and Marcus Marshall added 11 for the Bears who trailed 45-36 with 6:07 to play. MSU rallied to post 21 points from there, including 9 by Downing down the stretch to steal one from the home standing Eagles (12-15).
EMU got 19 points from Derek Thompson and 11 from J.R. Sims. But it was a dunk by Jamell Harris with 8:23 remaining that appeared to put the game on ice, giving Eastern a nine point lead.
The cardiac kids from Springfield then started to find their rhythm. Downing scored in transition on a great pass from Nathan Scheer that led to a 3-point play to cut the deficit to six. After the Eagles retaliated with a quick transition bucket, Scheer knocked down a 3-pointer from the left corner to trim MSU's deficit to five, and then before the final media timeout of the afternoon, Marshall scored in transition after a steal by Dorrian Williams to make it 47-44.
Coming out of the media timeout, the Bears kept the pressure on with Scheer scoring on a tip-in off a Downing miss to make it a one-point game. Downing then gave the Bears their first lead since the first two minutes of the contest, manufacturing a jumper from a spin move from the elbow that gave the Bears a 48-47 lead at the 2:46 mark.
A minute later, it was Williams' turn to shine as the freshman scored on a short jumper in the paint and was fouled. He converted the 3-point play to give Paul Lusk's club a four-point lead, and then Downing capped the 14-0 run by making both ends of a critical one-and-one free throw opportunity with 48 seconds left.
With their biggest lead of the game, 53-47, the Bears had some breathing room when Thompson drained his fourth trey of the contest to make it a three-point game with 40 seconds left. Downing would sandwich 2-of-4 free throws between EMU possessions to help the Bears build their lead back to 55-50. With 14 seconds to go, Eastern Michigan worked the ball down low to Matt Balkema who banked a short jumper with 5.0 seconds showing.
On the ensuing in-bound play, Marshall was fouled and turned to protect the ball. The officials called Marshall for a flagrant elbow foul on the play. The freshman knocked down both of his free throws to give MSU a 57-52 lead with 4 seconds remaining, and EMU also made its two shots from the flagrant call and kept possession in a three-point contest.
Not giving the Eagles an opportunity to shoot a potential game-tying shot, the Bears fouled Antoine Chandler immediately. He missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw chance, and Scheer snagged the rebound. Scheer was wrapped up and went to the line for two shots, which he missed, but the Bears got the long rebound on the second attempt, with Williams gathering the ball near mid-court with 0.2 showing.
After trailing by 13 in the first half, the effort was Missouri State's biggest comeback in three seasons.
Christian Kirk added 9 points and a team-high 6 rebounds for MSU, which also got 8 points from Scheer and Williams. Williams also tallied 4 assists to lead Missouri State.
The Bears finished 18-for-44 (.409) from the field, including 52-percent in the second half, and 5-of-21 (.238) from beyond the arc. Missouri State negotiated 29 rebounds, including 12 on the offensive end and overcame a 16-for-30 (.533) free throw effort by committing just 15 fouls and 10 turnovers. MSU also matched a season high with 10 steals.
Eastern Michigan dropped its fourth game in five tries despite shooting .455 (20-for-44) from the field and 50 percent (8-of-16) from beyond the arc. EMU was 6-of-11 (.545) at the line and out-rebounded the smaller Bears, 32-29 while committing 16 turnovers.
The comeback late in the second half was not Missouri State's first rally of the contest. After trailing by eight at the intermission, the Bears reeled off seven straight points to start the final period, drawing within 29-28 at the 16:51 mark on a 3-pointer by Anthony Downing. Eastern Michigan responded with eight consecutive points of its own, including a four-point play by Derek Thompson, to regain control, 37-28.
In the first half, MSU surrendered six 3-pointers and was out-rebounded 19-14 to trail, 29-21, at the half.
The Bears jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first two minutes with Marshall scoring the game's first bucket, and Kirk following up with a traditional 3-point play to set the pace.
EMU responded with eight straight points over the next two-and-a-half minutes with a pair of 3-pointers and a dunk. Kirk brought the Bears back within 8-7 on his second layup of the first stanza, but a trey by Thompson pushed the home club back ahead by four.
MSU would get within three points of the lead twice from there with treys by Gavin Thurman and Nathan Scheer on back-to-back possessions. The latter brought the Bears within 16-13 at the 11:37 mark. But Eastern Michigan reeled off the game's next 10 points to double up on the Bears, 26-13, with just over six minutes left in the half.
Williams ended Missouri State's dry spell with a free throw a minute later, starting an 8-0 rally by the maroon club. A layup by Anthony Downing with 56 seconds left in the half drew the Bears within 26-21, but J.R. Sims' third 3-pointer of the half for the Eagles pushed the home club on top by eight at the break.
With the win, Missouri State evened its all-time record in the BracketBusters series, 5-5.
The Bears, 6-10 in the Missouri Valley Conference, will wrap up the regular season this week with a road game Wednesday against Illinois State (16-12, 7-9) at 7 p.m., and the home finale against Bradley on March 2 at 7:05 p.m.
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