Visiting Illinois State (10-4, 2-1) put an end to Missouri State’s eight-game conference winning streak here Wednesday, out-rebounding the first-place Bears by 11 and prevailing 68-60 at JQH Arena.
John Wilkins led three Redbirds in double figures with 15 points, while Tyler Brown and Bryant Allen added 14 apiece. ISU was 10-for-28 (.357) from three-point range and held a 44-33 rebounding advantage, including 14 offensive boards.
MSU (9-6, 2-1), which had a chance to move into first place by itself after Evansville’s one-point home loss to Wichita State, dropped into a six-way log jam atop the Missouri Valley Conference standings with their first defeat of the year.
Kyle Weems scored a game-high 18 points for the Bears who lost a home league game for the first time since Jan. 30, 2011. Jarmar Gulley added 16 points and 9 rebounds for the home club.
Illinois State, which never trailed, used a steady stream of three-pointers to win its first conference road game of the campaign. After MSU cut a 30-25 halftime deficit to three points on a pair of free throws by Gulley just 11 seconds into the second half, the Redbirds got three-pointers from Brown and Wilkins over the next 78 seconds to push their lead to nine.
Later in the half, the Bears trimmed the deficit to 45-40 after Weems reeled off 12 straight points, and Gulley made one of two free throws at the 8:58 mark. But on ISU’s next possession, the Redbirds snagged three offensive rebounds off missed three-point attempts before Jon Ekey knocked down a dagger of a trey from the right wing to make it 48-40. Less than a minute later, Wilkins dropped in a three from the left corner to make it an 11-point game again.
Still, MSU was able to climb back within 52-47 after a Michael Bizoukas free throw with just 2:42 to go. But, it was simply Illinois State’s night as the Redbirds made 12-of-14 free throws from there to counter three Missouri State three-pointers in the final 40 seconds and close out the win.
The Bears shot a better percentage from the field than the Redbirds, making good on 21-of-57 (.368) attempts, compared to 20-of-57 (.351) by the visitors. But MSU was just 5-of-18 (.278) from three-point range, while Illinois State made 10-of-28 (.357) with five bombs in each half. Ekey and Jackie Carmichael accounted for 12 and 10 rebounds, respectively, for ISU, including four offensive caroms by Ekey.
The Bears also collected 9 points from reserve Christian Kirk in the post who played 24 minutes in the absence of Caleb Patterson who was recovering from a concussion. Keith Pickens added 8 off the bench, while Bizoukas contributed 8 assists with one turnover.
In the first half, Allen scored 10 off the bench to help ISU to a five-point lead at the break. The Bears made just one of their first eight field goal attempts, and then when Weems picked up his second personal foul at the 12:37 mark, Illinois State responded with an 8-4 run to make it a 17-8 game midway through the opening period.
Missouri State climbed back within 17-14 on a jumper at the 6:37 mark by Kirk, who tallied all his points in the first stanza. But back-to-back three-pointers by Allen and a free throw by Tyler Brown built ISU’s lead to double figures at 24-14 with just under six minutes left.
Kirk and Pickens sparked another MSU rally from there with seven straight points over the next 90 seconds to make it 24-21. But, Ekey dropped in ISU’s fifth and final trey of the opening half with less than a minute to play to put ISU back on top 30-25 at the break.
The Bears will try to bounce back on Saturday at 12:05 p.m. when they travel to Indiana State (10-4, 1-2) in a rematch of last year’s MVC Tournament title game.
Story courtesy of Missouri State Athletics.