Junior Nafis Ricks posted a career-high 18 points, but the Missouri State Bears could not hold off a hot-shooting Creighton squad in Missouri Valley Conference play Sunday, falling 76-72.
The game that featured 18 lead changes and eight ties saw the Beras (14-6, 4-5) take a one-point advantage, 69-68, on a three-pointer by Jermaine Mallett with 1:32 to play in the game. On the next possession, Missouri State’s defense held strong, forcing Bluejays coach Dana Altman to call a timeout with just over a minute to play and drawing up a play that led to a dunk by Kenny Lawson to put Creighton up for good, 70-69.
The Bluejays made six straight free throws in the final minute and 15-of-15 in the second half to hold off Missouri State. The Bears kept things close with another three from Kyle Weems with six seconds to go to make it a 74-72 game, but Cavel Witter’s free throws with just under five seconds on the clock sealed the win for the Bluejays (10-10, 5-4).
Creighton improved to 9-1 at the Qwest Center this season.
In addition to Ricks’ efforts, the Bears got 13 points from Mallett and 12 from Will Creekmore, while Weems notched his 21st straight double-figure scoring game with 10. Ricks also matched a game-high with 6 rebounds for the Bears who shot 41.4 percent from the field.
Creighton was led by Lawson with 20, while Darryl Ashford notched 15 and Witter scored 10.
The Bears outrebounded the Bluejays 35-30.
MSU returns home Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. to take on Evansville (6-13, 0-9).
In the first half, Missouri State found itself down 35-34 at the intermission after leading by as many as nine points. Creighton stromed out to a 12-5 lead and made seven of its first 10 shots.
After a basket by P’Allen Stinnett at the 13:44 mark, the Bears scored the game’s next nine points to lead 20-16 on a shot by Will Creekmore with 9:16 to go in the opening period. Antoine Young’s three-pointer just 23 seconds later made it a one-point game, but the Bears stormed back behind Nafis Ricks who scored eight points in the ensuing 12-4 run by Missouri State as Cuonzo Martin’s troops built a 32-23 lead with 4:39 to play.
From there, Creighton got to the free throw line 10 times in the final 3:20. MSU had just a jumper by Jerome Jones to put on the scoreboard during that stretch, and Creighton took advantage to own a 35-34 halftime lead.