No. 17/21 Lady Bears hold off Bradley 69-66

PEORIA, Ill. – The No. 17/21 Missouri State Lady Bears saw Bradley whittle all but one point off a 20-deficit Sunday afternoon but held on for a 69-66 victory at Renaissance Coliseum.

The Lady Bears (24-4, 14-2 Missouri Valley Conference) moved one win away from a regular-season league title with their 11th true road victory of the season – one shy of the school record – while handing Bradley (20-7, 11-5) its first home loss of the year. The Braves became the seventh team this season to suffer its first home loss to the Lady Bears.

Missouri State jumped ahead 9-0 in less than four minutes, had a 10-0 run early in the second quarter for 32-15, went up 36-17 on a Jasmine Franklin bucket with 4:28 until half, and carried a 40-25 into intermission.

Alexa Willard scored two of her 19 points with 7:07 left in the third quarter for MSU’s largest lead at 47-27, and the senior passed Kelly Mago for 12th on Missouri State’s career scoring list with her performance.

Bradley, which entered the game rated 38th in the NCAA RPI, ripped off a 19-4 run over the next five minutes to make it 51-46 before Calip answered with a trey to close out the quarter, and the Lady Bears held the lead at 4-10 points until BU’s Gabi Haack converted a 3-point play with 1:26 left for a 67-64 score.

The count was unchanged until Haack hit a pair of free throws with 3.5 seconds left to make it 67-66, and Willard hit two foul shots of her own with 1.4 remaining before Haack’s half-court heave at the buzzer bounced off the backboard.

Calip (12), Franklin (11) and Sydney Wilson (10) gave MSU four double-figure scorers, and Emily Gartner tied a career high with 11 rebounds in 15 minutes.

The win tied head coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton for the most wins by a first-year coach in MVC history and was the 900th in program history, the most in the Valley and 34th NCAA Division I team to reach that milestone.

The Lady Bears close the regular season at home, taking on Valparaiso at 7 p.m. Thursday and Loyola at 2 p.m. Saturday for Senior Day.

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