Missouri State (17-6, 9-3 MVC) erased a 14-point deficit early in the second half, but faded down the stretch thanks to timely free throw shooting by home standing Evansville (13-9, 7-5) in a 77-65 Missouri Valley Conference loss at historic Roberts Stadium on Wednesday.
The Bears used an 18-1 run starting at the 18:08 mark of the final stanza to climb ahead 52-49 on a pair of Nafis Ricks free throws less than six minutes later.
From there, the Purple Aces made a living at the free throw line to escape with the win, making 16-of-22 charity shots in the second half and finishing the game with 42 points in the paint against a larger MSU squad.
Five Evansville players scored in double figures, including Troy Taylor who came off the bench for a team-high 12, while Denver Holmes scored 11.
MSU out-rebounded Evansville 28-25 and finished 20-of-48 (.417) from the field, but just 35 percent in the second half. After knocking down four three-pointers in the opening seven minutes of the second half, Missouri State would hit just one the rest of the way to finish 9-for-28.
Kyle Weems and Jermaine Mallett scored 16 points apiece for MSU with Weems adding a game-high 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the year. Ricks scored 12, and Will Creekmore added 10 as MSU dropped its second straight league game to fall from first place for the first time this season.
MSU returns to JQH Arena on Saturday for a 2:05 p.m. tip against Indiana State.
Story courtesy of MSU athletics.