Missouri State senior Will Creekmore notched a career-high 26 points to help the Bears to a 76-58 road Missouri Valley Conference victory at Southern Illinois Wednesday night, giving MSU a record 14th conference win this season.
Cuonzo Martin’s squad improved to 22-7 overall and 14-3 in the MVC headed into Saturday’s winner-take-all conference finale at JQH Arena in Springfield against fellow league front runner Wichita State (23-7, 14-3).
Creekmore finished 10-for-15 from the field and 6-for-9 at the free throw line, while snagging a team-high 11 rebounds. His career-high total was just one point shy of a team season high and his eighth career double-double.
MSU shot an impressive 53.1 percent (26-for-49) from the field and 8-of-13 (.615) from three-point range thanks to a solid inside effort on both ends of the floor.
The Bears trailed 2-0 just 49 seconds into the game, but Kyle Weems knocked down a three-pointer 16 seconds later to put MSU up 3-2. Missouri State would never trail again and fought off two first-half runs by the home club which fell to 12-17 and 5-12 in the MVC. After a dunk by Justin Bocot with 6:04 to go in the first half made it a 24-21 game, Creekmore scored MSU’s next nine points and helped the Bears go into the half leading 35-28.
In the second half, MSU opened up its first double-figure lead quickly, scoring three quick layups out of the gate, including two by Weems, forcing an SIU timeout less than 90 seconds into the second stanza. With a 41-28 lead at that point, MSU extended its advantage to 20 for the first time on a Weems’ jumper with 8:01 to go in the game and eventually led by 23 with just under six minutes remaining.
Weems’ streak of 24 straight double-figure scoring games was snapped with a nine-point effort, while Nafis Ricks scored 12, and Adame Leonard added 11 behind three treys.
Mamadou Seck led SIU with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Southern Illinois shot .333 (19-of-57) from the field and 5-of-17 (.294) from three.
The victory for Missouri State also gave it its seventh MVC road win of the campaign, something the Bears had never done.
The regular-season finale against Wichita State begins at 12:02 p.m. at JQH Arena.