In a game composed of numerous runs from each team, it was the Missouri State Lady Bears who had the last charge, pulling away from a 60-all tie with 1:38 remaining to earn a 66-63 Missouri Valley Conference victory over visiting Evansville at JQH Arena Saturday.
The victory moved the Lady Bears (14-13, 6-9 MVC) into seventh place in the league standings, and more importantly pulled the club within one-half game of Evansville (8-17, 6-8) for sixth place and a first-round bye in next month’s MVC Tournament.
Big runs were the story for the first three-fourths of the contest. After Evansville led 11-8 early on, Missouri State held the Purple Aces without a field goal for nine minutes while going on a 23-4 run to lead 31-15 with 4:40 left in the first half. Evansville countered with a 21-2 run of its own, burying five 3-pointers in five minutes of game time to go ahead 36-33 just 50 seconds into the second period.
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The Lady Bears responded with an 8-0 run from there after Kenzie Williams drained a triple at the 15:51 mark for a 41-36 advantage, and Evansville answered with a 9-0 run to go up 45-41 with 12:45 left.
Karly Buer tied the game at 45-all with 11 minutes left before Evansville scored the next five points and forced the Lady Bears to play catch-up until Whitney Edie hit two free throws for a 53-51 lead with 6:36 remaining.
The Purple Aces briefly held a one-point lead before Edie answered with a jumper in the lane and Williams hit a trey from the wing to kick off a 7-0 run that put the Lady Bears up 60-54 with 3:39 to play.
Evansville tied the game at 60-60 two minutes later on Laura Friday’s 3-pointer before Edie answered with the go-ahead basket with 1:25 left. After UE hit a free throw, Buer snatched a critical offensive rebound and putback as the shot clock buzzer sounded to put MSU ahead 64-61 with 40.2 seconds left. The junior added two free throws with 24.3 ticks remaining after a defensive stop, and Evansville scored with 2.9 seconds left to close within 66-63. Missouri State survived a turnover on the ensuing in-bounds play as UE’s half-court heave at the buzzer missed wide left.
Williams scored 17 points to lead MSU, while Buer (15), Edie (14) and Tyonna Snow (10) joined her in double figures. Edie’s nine rebounds left her one shy of her 10th double-double, and four other Lady Bears grabbed seven boards as Missouri State held a 45-35 advantage on the glass.
The Lady Bears survived a 36.5 percent shooting night thanks in part to going 15-for-20 at the foul line, while Evansville shot 21-for-56 overall but 11-for-27 from beyond the arc.