No. 18/23 Lady Bears win again behind strong 3rd quarter

SPRINGFIELD – Missouri State out-scored Evansville by 12 points in the third quarter Friday to account for most of the final 76-62 margin and give the No. 18/23 Lady Bears their eighth consecutive victory overall and 12th straight at JQH Arena.

Missouri State (22-3, 12-1 Missouri Valley Conference) trailed for only 12 seconds in the game, taking the lead for good with an early 9-0 run and building a double-digit lead at 21-11 early in the second quarter.

The Lady Bears took a 34-28 lead into halftime despite shooting under 30 percent in the first 20 minutes and missed their first three shots of the second half, but rebounded each one to eventually get a 3-pointer from Brice Calip that sparked a 10-0 run for a 44-28 lead.

MSU also grabbed the first nine available rebounds of the second half, pushing the margin to 59-41 on an Elle Ruffridge trey at the 4:29 mark, and led by at least 12 for the rest of the contest.

Alexa Willard led MSU with 14 points and Abby Hipp collected her second double-double of the season with 11 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Calip finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists to help the Lady Bears to their longest winning streak at JQH Arena since the building opened in 2008.

Missouri State launched 81 field goal attempts and made 27, shooting below 40 percent for just the fourth time this season, but owned a 54-38 rebounding lead and 16-9 turnover margin.

Mya Bhinhar’s nine points and four assists all came in the second half, 10 Lady Bears scored at least four points, and the MVC leaders grabbed 23 offensive rebounds. Senior Shameka Ealy blocked a career-high four shots.

Evansville (3-22, 0-14) shot 40.7 percent overall and hit 10 3-pointers.

Missouri State hosts Indiana State (4-22, 2-12) at 2 p.m. Sunday. Fans are encouraged to wear pink to support the fight against cancer.

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