The Missouri St. men’s basketball team kept rolling on Wednesday night with a 72-61 road win over Illinois St. The Bears have now won four straight and seven out of their last eight.
MSU got out to an early lead, by taking a 12-2 advantage to start the game. They had a 32-19 lead at one point in the first half, but the Redbirds battled back and cut that lead to eight by halftime. The Bears led 37-29 at the break.
Illinois St. then scored the first six points of the second half to make it 37-35, Missouri St. That proved to be the only serious threat for the Bears, who responded with a 7-0 run of their own. Later in the game MSU went on a 9-0 streak to further distance themselves 63-48.
The Bears offense, which is the best in the Missouri Valley Conference at 77 points per game, continued to show a greater commitment to defense, by holding Illinois St. to 38.9 percent shooting. Over the last eight games, they’ve held teams to 60 points per contest.
Blake Ahearn led Missouri St. in scoring with 18 points and was one of four Bears to reach double-digits. Nathan Bilyeu had 13, Dale Lambert scored 12 and Kellen Easley added 10.
Roberto Fortes scored 14 to lead the Redbirds in the loss.
With the win, Missouri St. improved to 19-7 on the season and 11-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference. They’re tied with Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois for third place in the Valley. Wichita St. clinched its first regular season conference crown in 23 years on Wednesday by topping Drake 60-58. Paul Miller, who is a graduate of Blair Oaks High School in Taos, Missouri, tipped in the game-winner with 3.1 seconds to go.
Also, Creighton held on to its spot in second place by beating Indiana St. 67-62.
On Saturday, Missouri will try to secure their first 20-win season since the 1999-2000 campaign when they host Creighton in the regular season finale. In 99-00, head coach Barry Hinson’s first, MSU (then Southwest Missouri St.) marked up a 23-11 record and made it to the second round of the NIT.