A pair of free throws by Loomis Gerring with 11 seconds to go helped lift Missouri State past Drake, 69-67, Thursday in the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis
The Bears (13-18) advance to Friday’s 6 p.m. quarterfinal against No. 2 seed Evansville (23-8).
Chris Kendrix scored a game-high 21 points for MSU, while Valley Newcomer of the Year Dequon Miller pitched in 14 points and a team-high 7 rebounds. Ryan Kreklow added 13 points. Kendrix matched a career high with five 3-pointers, while Kreklow added three to help the Bears knock down 10 shots from bonus distance – their second-best effort of the season from 3-point range.
Missouri State committed just 6 turnovers and blocked 7 shots to help overcome a 37-27 rebounding deficit and a 60-percent shooting effort in the second half by the Bulldogs.
After leading by 10 at the midway point, the Bears saw their advantage slip away as DU opened the second stanza with a 13-2 run in the first four minutes to lead 43-42. But Missouri State weathered the storm with Kreklow knocking down a short jumper, Miller draining a clutch trey, and later with a three from Kreklow to push the Bears back on top 50-45.
The Bulldogs tied it again at the 12:44 mark, but Kendrix answered on MSU’s next possession with a 3-pointer, and Gerring scored on MSU’s next two trips with a 16-footer and a free throw to give the No. 7 seed a 56-50 advantage.
After Timmer calmed with waters briefly with his second long-range jumper of the game, the Bears looked like they might put it on ice. First, the Bears got a clutch trey from Miller and moments later added a back-breaking dunk by Obediah Church on an in-bound play with 7:57 remaining to make it a 62-53 contest.
Missouri State would go the next six-and-a-half minutes without a field goal, and the No. 10-seeded Bulldogs kept biting. A 13-2 run from there gave Drake a 66-64 lead with 1:48 to go as Timmer got the rim for and “and one” opportunity on a key block/charge call that went DU’s way.
Timmer missed the ensuing free throw, and the Bears marched ahead to Kreklow who drained a clutch 3-pointer from the right wing to give the Bears the lead again, 67-66, with 91 seconds to play.
Paul Lusk’s squad then stepped it up defensively, collecting steals on Drake’s next two possessions – the first by Kendrix and the second by Gerring, who finished with 9 points and a game-high two steals.
Gerring was fouled after his clutch steal with 11.7 seconds to go, and he made both to make it 69-66. The Bears then fouled Drake as they brought it across mid-court to prevent the Bulldogs from attempting a 3-pointer. Woodward made just one of two from the stripe, and Kendrix gathered in the rebound off the miss on the second free throw with just over 4 seconds to go.
The league’s second-best foul shooter missed both shots, but Drake could manage only a desperation launch by Timmer from 45 feet out, which caromed off the backboard as the final horn sounded.
Missouri State finished 22-of-52 (.423) from the field, 10-of-20 (.500) from long range and 15-of-22 (.682) at the stripe. The Bears also gained their first win of the season when being out-rebounded.
Missouri State is 15-8 all-time in the MVC Tournament quarterfinals and will be looking to advance to the Arch Madness semis for the first time since 2014.