Missouri State (2-0) survived a late run by Arkansas State to hold on for an 80-71 win Tuesday in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Bears led by as many as 24 in the second half.
However, the Red Wolves (0-2) used on a 20-2 run in the second half to get it back to a 71-65 game with 2:59 to play. MSU shot 85% from the free throw line, and hit 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch. Nafis Ricks, Will Creekmore and Kyle Weems each key shots in the clutch, and Jermaine Mallett hit a 14-foot jumper with :57 seconds to end the threat.
Four Missouri State starters scored in double figures, including a team-high 18 by Weems, 17 by Mallett and a double-double by Creekmore on 13 points and a game high 10 boards. The Bears advance to play Wednesday evening in the second round at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN.