Jarmar Gulley scored 4 of his game-high 22 points in overtime to help lift Missouri State (11-2) past visiting Illinois State, 78-70, in the Missouri Valley Conference opener for both clubs here Thursday.
The Bears trailed by as many as 16 late in the first half and overcame a 12-point deficit with 13:53 to play to run their JQH Arena winning streak to nine in a row. MSU took the lead for the first time on a pair of Keith Pickens free throws with 1:34 remaining in regulation.
Pickens finished with a game-high 10 rebounds and 5 assists off the bench, while Marcus Marshall added 14 points, and Christian Kirk scored 13 for Paul Lusk’s squad.
Daishon Knight led four Redbirds in double figures with 15 points and 7 rebounds, while Bobby Hunter added 11 for ISU (7-6, 0-1).
Missouri State, which improved to 4-2 when trailing at the half, used a 10-4 run to close out the first half with some momentum and went into the break trailing 41-31. ISU’s Zach Lofton was whistled for a technical foul as the teams were leaving the floor at halftime, and Marshall converted one of two free throws before the second half got underway, closing MSU’s deficit to nine.
A 3-pointer by Gulley three minutes into the second stanza pulled the home club within 44-40, but the Redbirds retaliated with an 8-0 outburst over the next three minutes to push back on top by 12.
ISU seemed to have an answer for every Missouri State run over the next nine minutes as Paris Lee knocked down a trey with just over seven minutes to go after the Bears had climbed within five. Later, a runner by Hunter with four-and-a-half remaining silenced the home faithful after a Gulley shot off the glass made it a 61-56 contest at the 4:56 mark.
Gulley knocked down a pair of charity shots with 4:18 remaining to start a personal 8-2 run, and his layup after a Pickens steal in the open court pulled MSU within 65-64 with 1:44 showing. After Illinois State missed two shots at point-blank range on its next trip, Pickens was fouled on the rebound, sending the senior to the line for the go-ahead free throws with 94 ticks to spare.
Illinois State’s Reggie Lynch converted one-of-two free throws in the clutch with 21.4 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 66, and MSU’s efforts to win it on its last possession fell short on a 3-point try by Marshall.
In overtime, Gulley took over early, getting the first bucket 30 seconds in to extra time and later pushing the Bears ahead 74-68 after Pickens threaded the needle with a precision pass for a layup. In overtime, Pickens had 2 assists, a pair of free throws and rattled home an alley-up dunk on a pass from Dorrian Williams to help seal the win.
The Bears made 4-of-5 field goal attempts in overtime and finished 26-of-64 (.406) overall from the field, including 9-of-26 (.346) from long range. MSU converted 9-of-12 free throws in the second half and 4-of-6 in overtime to finish at 68-percent (17-for-25) for the game.
Williams finished with 9 of Missouri State’s 21 assists, a career high, while Gulley blocked 3 shots and finished 9-for-12 from the field. The Bears had 8 turnovers for the game, but just one in the second half and none in overtime, and out-rebounded the Redbirds by a 38-37 margin.
The Redbirds, who also got 10 points apiece from Lee and Lynch, were 28-of-62 (.452) from the field, 9-of-21 (.429) from bonus distance but just 5-of-13 (.385) at the line.
In the first half, Illinois State used pressure defense and a sharp-shooting touch from beyond the arc to rush out to a 13-7 lead in the first six-and-a-half minutes as the Redbirds made six of their first nine shots.
Nathan Scheer knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing to cut the Bears’ deficit to three, and an alley-oop layup to Christian Kirk with just over 11 minutes left in the opening half made it a 13-12 contest. Later, the Bears continued to bounce off the canvas with a dunk-back by Pickens, and a pair of buckets by Kirk keeping MSU within striking distance. A 3-pointer by freshman Austin Ruder pulled the home club within 23-21 with 6:54 remaining in the opening half before the flood gates opened.
But the next three minutes belonged to the Redbirds who went on a 14-0 run to lead 37-21 with 3:53 remaining as ISU knocked down three 3-pointers during that stretch and gained some separation late in the period. Missouri State, however, closed out the half strong as Kirk threw down a baseline dunk, Williams and Marshall drained buckets from downtown, and the Bears trimmed their deficit to 10 at the intermission.
Missouri State, which already has matched its win total from last season, will head to Chicago on Sunday to take on Valley newcomer Loyola (5-8, 0-1) at 3 p.m., in a game that will air on the Missouri State Basketball Television Network as well as ESPN3 and ESPN Game Plan.