Missouri State (8-3) held off a late-surging Arkansas State club, 77-70, here Wednesday to pick up its 15th straight victory at JQH Arena and close out its non-conference home slate with a dramatic victory.
MSU got a game-high 24 points from Kyle Weems for his fourth consecutive 20-point effort, while Adam Leonard and Jermaine Mallett contributed 12 apiece in the winning cause. The Bears also snagged 21 offensive rebounds in the contest to garner a 33-25 rebounding advantage.
The Bears extended a 15-point halftime lead to 57-40 on a jumper by Mallett with just 12:42 to play in the game. But, just as in the previous meeting between the clubs on Nov. 16 in Knoxville, Tenn., the Red Wolves battled back from a huge deficit to make a game of it late.
In the NIT Season Tip-Off, the Bears built a 24-point second-half lead only to see Arkansas State scamper back within six late in the contest in an eventual 80-71 Missouri State victory.
A jumper by Rashad Allison from the left with a minute to play made it a 73-70 contest and capped 12-4 run by A-State (4-8). But, Nafis Ricks, who was just 2-for-14 from the field, attacked a seam in the visitors’ defense on MSU’s next possession and banked in a layup to give the Bears some breathing room, 75-70.
Allison turned the ball over on Arkansas State’s next trip down the floor, and John Brady’s squad fouled Weems almost immediately. Weems missed the front end of the ensuing one-and-one free throw, but Ricks was there for the offensive rebound.
MSU swung the ball around to Weems again, and he was sent back to the line with 13 ticks remaining on another quick foul. The usually-solid charity shooter missed again, but recovered in time to steal the ball away from ASU rebounder Martavius Adams. Almost in the same motion, Weems laid the ball off the glass for the game-clinching basket with 8.9 seconds on the clock to lock up the 77-70 win.
Adams led Arkansas State with 19 points on a 7-for-9 shooting effort and shared game-high rebounding honors with 9. Four other Red Wolves scored 10 each, including Allison, Brandon Peterson, Trey Finn and Malcoln Kirkland.
A-State, which shot 60.9 (26-for-46) percent from the field, fell to 1-8 away from Jonesboro, including seven losses by single digits.
The Bears got nine rebounds from Will Creekmore, including six on the offensive end, but his seven-point night snapped a 14-game double-figure scoring streak.
Missouri State made 31-of-65 (.477) shots, including 8-of-15 (.533) from beyond the arc. The Bears struggled at the free throw line for the second straight contest, knocking down just 7-of-13 (.538) charity shots. MSU forced 17 Red Wolves’ turnovers in the contest and turned those into 27 points.
The Bears begin Missouri Valley Conference play in a week with their league opener at defending champion Northern Iowa on Dec. 29 at 7:05 p.m.