Alize Johnson set a Missouri State MVC Tournament record with 17 rebounds, while Jarred Dixon went 10-for-10 at the foul line to help lift No. 6 seed Missouri State (17-15) past No. 3 seed Northern Iowa, 70-64, here Friday in the quarterfinals of Arch Madness.
Johnson, the MVC Newcomer of the Year, finished with a game-high 20 points, while Chris Kendrix poured in 11 off the bench, and Dixon added 10 points.
The Bears also out-rebounded the Panthers by a 50-25 margin.
UNI (14-16) got 18 points from Jeremy Morgan and 15 from Bennett Koch, while MSU’s defense held the Panthers to just 34.4 percent shooting on the night.
The Bears made 11 straight free throws in the final 90 seconds, turning a two-point advantage into as many as nine in crunch time. All of Dixon’s charity shots came in the final seven minutes of the game.
After leading 31-29 at the intermission, MSU pushed ahead by five on a 3-pointer by Jarrid Rhodes less than a minute into the second half. Two minutes later, Rhodes knocked down a 17-footer to put the Bears up 36-32.
Koch then rallied the Panthers with five unanswered points to give UNI a one-point lead at the 15-minute mark. But, coach Paul Lusk’s troops were game and reeled off seven of the game’s next eight points with Jordan Martin, Johnson, Kendrix and Ryan Kreklow leading the outburst to give the Bears a 43-38 lead with 11:45 remaining.
The Panthers took the lead again briefly on a trey by Spencer Haldeman midway through the final period, but Obediah Church answered with an offensive rebound and put-back on MSU’s next possession to knot the score at 45.
Near the eight-minute mark, Dequon Miller dropped in a huge three at the top of the key to put the Bears up 51-47, and MSU used close-range buckets by Church and Johnson down the stretch, along with clutch foul shooting, to reach the semifinals in St. Louis for the first time since 2014 and just the second time in 10 years.
MSU finished 20-for-48 (.417) from the field and 5-of-16 (.313) from long range. But the Bears took advantage of their trips to the free throw line, converting 25-of-30 (.833) on the night. MSU owned a plus-25 rebounding margin thanks in part to Johnson and 11 rebounds by Church who scored 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
UNI scored on just 28 of its 68 possessions on the evening and converted 21-of-51 shots from the field and 6-of-28 (.214) from three. The Panthers were 16-of-22 (.727) at the stripe with just 5 turnovers and 10 steals while forcing 17 MSU turnovers.
In the first half, the Bears sprinted out to a 9-2 lead in the first four minutes, thanks in part to seven quick points by Johnson. UNI knocked down four treys in the span of just over three minutes to tie the game, 20-20, at the 8:29 mark. But Missouri State closed out the half with a two-point lead, with Kendrix dropping in a clutch trey that gave MSU a six-point lead at the 2:45 mark.
Missouri State advances to play No. 21 Wichita State (28-4) in the second semifinal at Scottrade Center on Saturday, tipping off at 5:05 p.m. The game will air on CBS Sports Network.
The other semifinal pits No. 1 seed Illinois State vs. No. 4 Southern Illinois at 2:35 p.m., also on CBS Sports Network.