Missouri State got 18 points from Jermaine Mallett to lead four Bears in double figures in a 69-64 win over Wichita State at JQH Arena Saturday afternoon in the regular-season finale for both clubs. With the victory, MSU (23-7, 15-3) earned its first-ever Missouri Valley Conference regular-season conference title.
Mallett also finished with 8 rebounds and hit three free throws in the final 1:51 to fight off a valiant comeback by the Shockers (23-7, 14-4).
After an Adam Leonard jumper with 5:17 left in the game put Missouri State up 57-47, Wichita State went on a 12-3 run over the next three minutes and 15 seconds to make it a one-point game. David Kyles knocked down three three-pointers during that stretch for WSU, while Joe Ragland hit another to keep the visitors close.
Mallett’s three-point play at the 1:51 mark gave the Bears a 63-59 lead, but Kyles tied the game with just 1:20 to go on his fifth trey of the game, silencing the record crowd of 11,077 at JQH Arena.
The shot of the night, and perhaps the season, for Missouri State game with 48 seconds left when Leonard drained a contested three from the right wing, also his fifth of the game, to put the Bears on top again 67-64. Despite making just two of five free throws from there, the Bears’ defense held strong, and the Shockers missed their final three field goal attempts down the stretch.
Leonard finished with 17 points, while Will Creekmore scored 13, and Kyle Weems scored 11 with a game-high 9 boards. Fellow starter Nafis Ricks capped his senior day performance with 7 points and 8 assists.
In the early going, the Bears built a double-figure lead behind five first-half three-pointers and went into the intermission with a 32-21 lead. A 12-4 run over a six-minute stretch early in the first period gave the Bears a 16-8 lead. After WSU cut its deficit to 16-14 on a shot by Garrett Stutz with 8:11 on the clock in the opening stanza, the Bears reeled off an impressive 11-2 run to lead 27-16 and carried that momentum to the second period.
MSU built its advantage to 14 points 30 seconds into the second period on a trey by Leonard. The closest Wichita would get over the next 17 minutes was six before Kyles started his three-point assault.
Kyles was the only Shockers player in double figures with a game-high 20 points. He was 7-for-12 from the field and also matched Gabe Blair with a team-high 7 rebounds.
Wichita State made all eight of its three-pointers in the second half, including five in the final five minutes. Gregg Marshall’s squad finished 22-for-52 (.423) from the field, 8-of-23 (.348) from beyond the arc, and 12-for-13 (.923) at the free throw line.
The Bears finished 23-for-52 (.442) from the field, including 50 percent in the second half, and 7-of-20 (.350) from three-point range. MSU also shot a season-low 53.3 percent (16-for-30) from the free throw line. The Bears out-rebounded the Shockers 35-30, giving up just four offensive boards and two second-chance points. Missouri State turned the ball over 13 times, compared to just 12 for Wichita State, and both teams tallied 6 steals.
Cuonzo Martin’s Bears take the No. 1 seed into the State Farm MVC Tournament, which begins Thursday at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. MSU, which was the No. 10 seed at the tourney two years ago, is the top seed for the first time in its 21-season affiliation with the MVC. The Bears will take on the winner of the 8/9 game between Southern Illinois and Illinois State in the quarterfinal round Friday at Noon.
The No. 1 seed in the Valley Tournament has earned an NCAA berth every year since 1993.
Story courtesy of Missouri State athletics.