Missouri State (12-1, 2-0) seemed to find another gear on Saturday night before the second-largest home crowd in school history, as the Bears scored six points in the final 37 seconds to turn back Illinois State, 68-64.
The Bears led for all but 14 seconds of the first half and later built their biggest lead of the game on a three-pointer by Kyle Weems with 11:42 remaining to put Missouri State up 47-38. However, the visiting Redbirds (10-3, 1-1) stormed back on a bucket by Osiris Eldridge, a three-pointer by Kellen Thornton and an trey by Eldridge over the next 1:18 to make it a one-point game, 47-46.
Weems, who played just 23 minutes on the night with foul trouble, then responded with his fourth three-pointer of the game with 9:29 to play and rebuild a four-point lead for Missouri State. With 3:30 to go, Justin Fuehrmeyer hit a pair of free throws coming out of the under-four-minute media timeout to stifle another ISU run and put the Bears up 59-56, but Alex Rubin fired home his second three-pointer of the night on Illinois State’s next possession to tie the game. Then the star of last year’s meeting between the squads, Lloyd Phillips, hit a driving layup to give the Redbirds a 61-59 advantage with just 1:32 remaining.
The crowd of 10,008 at JQH Arena then came unglued as Adam Leonard pulled up for a long three just left of the key, and drained his fourth trey of the night to put the home club back on top, 62-61. A free throw by the Redbirds’ Jackie Carmichael tied the game with 53 seconds to go before Leonard would hit another bucket at the 37-second mark to give MSU a 64-62 lead.
The key play of the night then came on the next possession on a drive to the basket by Eldridge, the MVC Preseason Player of the Year. On a set clear-out for Eldridge, Fuehrmeyer cut the fellow senior off, held position, and drew a charging violation on Eldridge for his fifth personal foul.
Weems and Leonard iced four free throws in the final 10.2 seconds, and the Bears improved to 2-0 in MVC play with a 68-64 win. The victory for MSU snapped a five-game losing streak to the Redbirds and avenged a 72-69 overtime defeat at the hands of ISU in last season’s league opener for both squads.
Leonard finished with a game-high 20 points, including four three-pointers and a perfect 6-for-6 at the free throw line. As a team, MSU made 14-of-15 (.933) charity shots. Weems scored 19 and matched a career-high with five treys, while Jermaine Mallett posted his first career double-double with 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Will Creekmore also added 8 points for MSU which shot .423 (22-of-52) for the ball game and was 10-for-27 (.370) from beyond the arc. MSU also owned a 34-31 rebounding advantage.
Story courtesy of Missouri State Athletics.