Reed Timmer’s desperation 3-pointer from well beyond the arc found its mark with 0.9 seconds to go and lifted visiting Drake past Missouri State, 67-63, here Sunday in a Missouri Valley Conference barn burner.
Timmer, who finished with a game-high 20 points, was fouled on the game-winning play and turned it into a rare four-point play to decide the margin of victory for the Bulldogs (16-13, 10-6 MVC).
Missouri State (17-12, 7-9 MVC) looked to have completed an improbable comeback just moments earlier, rallying from 12 points down in the second half and 10 points down with 9:40 to play to take the lead six minutes later.
After a layup by De’Antae McMurray gave the Bulldogs a 53-43 lead midway through the second half, the Bears went on a 15-2 run over the next seven minutes to take a 58-55 lead. Jarred Dixon and Obediah Church each had five points in that stretch for MSU, while Jarrid Rhodes dropped in a key 3-pointer, and Mustafa Lawrence drained a 15-footer.
Dixon’s runner as the shot clock expired with 2:43 remaining gave the Bears a 58-55 advantage, and after Drake snuck in a free throw by Nick McGlynn on its next trip, Church calmly stepped up with a 17-foot jumper to put the home side up by four with under two minutes to play.
McMurray scored with a left-handed layup to bring Drake within two with a minute-and-a-half left, but a solitary free throw by Church pushed MSU’s lead back to three, 61-58, by making one of two with under a minute to play.
MSU’s Alize Johnson blocked a short jumper by McMurray on Drake’s next possession and corralled the rebound – his 16th of the game – and Drake quickly fouled Lawrence with 28.5 to go. The MSU freshman made one of two at the stripe to extend the Bears’ lead to 62-58. However, Johnson was called for a foul on the missed free throw which sent Casey Schlatter to the line for two Drake free throws, getting the Bulldogs back within two with no time running off the clock.
Drake quickly fouled Dixon on the next MSU possession, but the 75-percent foul shooter missed both, and with 14.3 seconds to play, Noah Thomas buried a three for Drake to give the visitors a 63-62 lead.
Missouri State decided to attack immediately rather than hold the ball for the final shot and Johnson’s drive to the bucket resulted in a Drake foul. However, Johnson was only able to make one of two at the line with 8.1 seconds showing, leaving the game tied for the third and final time.
In the deciding moments, Drake got the ball to Timmer, who lost the handle briefly leaving Rhodes diving on the floor for the loose ball. Timmer recovered between the circles, turned and launched a 35 footer that found its mark with Johnson committing the foul in effort to provide defensive help.
Timmer was just 1-of-6 from 3-point range prior to his game-winning shot.
The Bears were led by Johnson and J.T. Miller with 14 points apiece, while Church and Dixon scored 10 apiece in MSU’s second buzzer-beating loss of the week. Lawrence contributed a game-high eight assists, the most by any MSU player this season.
MSU finished with a season-low 43.8 percent at the foul line (7-of-16), including five misses in the final minute.
Missouri State converted 26-of-67 (.388) shots overall and just 4-of-22 (.182) from bonus distance. The Bears rallied late to out-rebound Drake by a 41-39 margin after trailing on the glass most of the game, and committed a season-low seven turnovers.
For the afternoon, Drake was 25-of-61 (.410) overall and 8-of-23 (.348) from 3-point range. The Bulldogs turned the ball over nine times and converted 9-of-11 (.818) from the stripe.
A key sequence with just under six minutes to go in the game sparked some controversy and seemed to inspire the fans on hand at JQH Arena. After a hard foul on Dixon as he was driving to the basket, the MSU junior slid past the baseline and near the MSU bench. Several Bears, including some on the bench, rushed over to help Dixon up, but the bench players were ejected for doing so. Among those removed from the game was junior Ryan Kreklow, MSU’s top free throw shooter.
As there were no punches thrown when the players left the bench and no altercations with any Drake players, the ejections of Kreklow, Ross Owens and several redshirt players will not necessitate any further suspensions, according to a statement by lead official Kelly Self after the game.
The Bears will play their final regular-season home game of the 2017-18 slate Wednesday at 7 p.m. against Bradley (18-11, 8-8 MVC).