Missouri State Bears Beat Illinois State 53-48 At MVC Tournament
Missouri State's Devon Thomas (12) pushes the ball up the court against Illinois State during Friday's quarterfinal round game of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis. The Bears won 53-48, and will play unbeaten Wichita State Saturday in the semifinals. Photo: Image by Chase Snider / KTTS.com
The Missouri State Bears win a thriller, edging Illinois State 53-48 in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Freshman Austin Ruder hit his sixth three pointer of the game with 2:04 remaining, then senior Keith Pickens followed with a tip-in with 38 seconds left to preserve the win for MSU.
The Bears, who led for much of the game, found themselves trailing for the first time when Illinois State's Paris Lee was fouled on a driving layup with 5:40 left in regulation.
The lead changed hands two more times, with the Redbirds' Bobby Hunter draining a three pointer with 4:03 left in the game, putting his team up 46-45.
Ruder's three, his sixth of the afternoon, gave the Bears a lead they would not relinquish.
"I got a good pass," Ruder said. "The man over helped a little bit. He had a pretty good close-out on me. I had to put a little more arch than I usually do on it, and I just got it to go."
Ruder says it was quite an atmosphere for his first Valley tournament, and it felt even better on the court, hitting shots. "I shot the second one that I made, it felt really good, and I thought it was going to be a pretty good night. I kept putting them up. My teammates kept telling me to put them up. So it was a good feeling."
Ruder finished with 21 points to lead MSU, while Zach Lofton had 25 points to pace Illinois State (16-15). Lofton has five treys in the game.
Senior Jarmar Gulley had eight points and ten rebounds. "They were leaving a man in the middle where we usually flash in," Gulley said. "So the corners were open. Me and Pick, we got together and we just started screening the outside of the zone. Rudy was lucky enough to hit the big shots."
Bears Coach Paul Lusk says both teams struggled offensively, but his guys found a way to win. "We were really poor from the line, but our guys didn't cave in, even when they took the lead. And we found a way to win the game. That's all that matters."
Lusk adds he's proud of his team. "When they stole the ball from Dorrian (Williams) with about four minutes left, it reminded me of the two plays over in Bloomington a couple of weeks ago, but we kept it together. It's good to win here and still be alive."
The Bears shot 33% from the field (18-55), while Illinois State connected on 31% of its attempts (16-51).
MSU was 10-19 at the free throw line (53%), and the Redbirds were also 53% (9-17).
Missouri State will get another shot at Wichita State, who beat Evansville 80-58 in the first game of the day at Scottrade Center.
The Bears are now 20-11 on the season, while the Shockers remain undefeated at 32-0, ranked second in the nation.
And how to the players feel about another shot at the Shockers? "Any time you can play a team like this at that caliber, second in the country, you just have to be excited and give your best effort," Pickens said of the challenge.
I think we just need to go out tomorrow and play Missouri State basketball and play our hardest, and things will be great for us," Gulley added.
Saturday's Bears semifinal game at the Scottrade Center gets underway at 1:35 p.m.
Ruder's six three pointers give him 71 on the season, a Missouri State freshman record. Ruder is fourth among all MVC freshmen in three pointers, and tied his season high in treys during Friday's game.
The 39 points Missouri State and Illinois State combined for in the first half is tied for sixth lowest in a half in MVC Tournament history.
This is Lusk's first 20 win season as a head coach. He improves to 47-49 in his third year at Missouri State.
MSU now has three 20 win seasons in the past five years and has hit the milestone 29 times in 101 years of basketball at Missouri State.
Friday's day session attendance at the Scottrade Center was 10,260.
Friday's Quarterfinal Round Final Scores (Seeds in parenthesis):
(1) Wichita State 80, (9) Evansville 58
(4) Missouri State 53, (5) Illinois State 48
(2) Indiana State 75, (10) Loyola 62
(6) Southern Illinois 63, (3) Northern Iowa 58
Saturday's Semifinal Round Matchups (Seeds in parenthesis):
(1) Wichita State vs. (4) Missouri State 1:35 p.m.
(2) Indiana State vs. (6) Southern Illinois 4:05 p.m.