Missouri State cut a 23-point second-half deficit to seven in the final minute, only to fall short, 78-69, to league-leading Northern Iowa at JQH Arena on Sunday night as both teams reached the midway point in Missouri Valley Conference play.
The Bears took a 25-24 lead on a three-pointer by Spencer Laurie with 4:40 to go in the first half, but gave up the next 14 points, including a 12-0 run by the visiting Panthers to close out the opening period. The Bears were within 10 points of UNI multiple times in the second half, but the Panthers extended a 50-40 lead to 68-45 in a span of less than five minutes and put the game away late with accurate free throw shooting.
UNI (14-6, 8-1 MVC) made 30-of-36 (.833) free throws to break a facility record, while junior Adam Koch connected on 18-of-20 at the line and finished with a game-high 30 points. Kwadzo Ahelegbe made 7-of-10 charity shots and was the only other Panther player in double figures with 12. The Panthers also had six traditional three-point play opportunities in the contest, making good on four of them with accurate free throw shooting.
Missouri State (9-11, 2-7) made a season-high 12 three-pointers, which paced their late comeback. MSU hit six threes in the final 5:34 and had the game back within seven points, 73-66, when Chris Cooks was fouled on a made layup in the final minute. However, Cooks missed the ensuing free throw that would have made it a two possession game, and the Panthers closed out the contest by making five straight free throws.
The Bears’ bench outscored UNI’s by a 50-17 margin, and all four MSU players in double figures did so in a reserve role. Cardell McFarland hit for a team-high 13 points, giving him back-to-back double-figure games for the first time since the first two ball games of the season. In his first game back after missing four contests with a broken non-shooting hand, Spencer Laurie made four three-pointers to finish with 12. Kyle Weems also scored 12, and Ryan Jehle hit for 11 on 4-for-4 shooting.
Missouri State made just 9-of-18 (.500) free throws in the game and was out-rebounded, 39-32, snapping a six-game streak out-rebounding its opponents. The Bears were 24-for-61 (.393) from the field and made good on 37.5 percent (12-for-32) of its threes with season highs in makes and attempts beyond the arc.
UNI, which shot 70.5 percent from the field in the first meeting between the clubs on January 10, connected on 22-of-49 (.449) field goals and was 4-for-14 (.286) from three. Both teams committed nine turnovers.
Missouri State now begins a two-game road swing through the league with games at Southern Illinois on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. before a 2:05 p.m. game with Creighton in Omaha on Sunday.
Story courtesy, MSU athletics