Nafis Ricks knocked down two free throws with 3.4 seconds on the clock to propel the Missouri State Bears to a 62-60 come-from-behind win over Nevada Saturday in the ESPN BracketBusters at JQH Arena.
Ricks’ pair of charity shots capped a 17-5 run by the Bears (18-10) to close out the game and give Cuonzo Martin’s squad its 14th home win of the season.
The comeback seemed improbable, however, just a few minutes earlier. With 6:32 to play, Armon Johnson stole an errant pass by Jermaine Mallett and took it the distance for a two-handed dunk to put Nevada on top 55-45. The Wolf Pack’s third dunk of the afternoon drew a technical foul when Johnson hung on the rim, opening the door for the Bears.
Mallett made one of the technical free throws, and then Will Creekmore sprung loose for his own dunk after the Bears retained possession from the technical to cut the MSU deficit to seven.
Kyle Weems and Creekmore continued the MSU run with key field goals over the next 90 seconds to bring the Bears back within 57-52 with 4:48 to go. Nevada (16-10) then missed two free throws and a field goal over the next minute, leading to a key three-pointer by Bears’ junior Adam Leonard off a pass from Weems to make it 57-55.
Dario Hunt missed his third and fourth straight free throws on Nevada’s next possession, and Creekmore’s hook shot with 3:03 to play tied the game for the fifth time, 57-57.
The Wolf Pack controlled the next minute-and-a-half, as it turned to star sophomore Luke Babbitt to break the tie. Babbitt, who was held to just 5-for-18 from the field, missed a baseline jumper, but Joey Shaw cleaned the glass. Shaw’s put-back gave Nevada a 59-57 lead. Nevada then built its lead to three on a free throw by Shaw after Weems fouled him going after his own rebound at the 1:48 mark.
With 91 seconds remaining, Creekmore emerged again for the Bears, taking Hunt to the baseline and scoring while drawing the foul. His first free throw of the game tied the contest again, 60-60.
Shaw missed a three-pointer on Nevada’s next possession, and the Bears closed out the game on pure hustle. A team offensive rebound off a Creekmore miss gave the Bears the ball with 39 seconds left. Leonard missed a potential game-winning jumper, but Ricks came up with an offensive rebound, and Hunt’s fifth foul sent the MSU junior to the line with 2.3 seconds to go.
After Ricks’ free throws, Nevada turned the ball over as it rushed down the floor in the final two seconds, and the Bears snapped a two-game losing streak with a 62-60 victory before 7,805 fans on the nationally-televised ESPN2 thriller.
The Bears will host Drake (12-16, 7-9) at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday in a key Missouri Valley Conference matchup in their home finale.