Missouri State’s bid for a repeat Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title ended Friday evening after sixth-seeded Evansville upset the No. 3 Lady Bears by a 65-59 final at the iWireless Center.
The Lady Bears (16-14) bolted to a double-digit in the first six minutes after Liza Fruendt started and ended an 8-0 run with 3-pointers to make it 12-2. MSU led 18-7 after a quarter, and 28-18 on a Lexi Hughes trey with 3:42 remaining until halftime.
Missouri State carried the 10-point lead into intermission, but the Purple Aces (14-16) opened the second period on a 13-2 run to gain their first lead at 33-32 with 4:02 to play. Evansville went on to convert 5-of-7 3-point tries and out-score MSU 21-7 in the period to go ahead 41-37 with 10 minutes to play.
MSU began the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run that resulted in a 45-41 lead on Danielle Gitzen’s 3-point play at the 8:22 mark. The lead changed hands five more times, the last two on 3-pointers – one from Fruendt to make it 58-56 MSU with 1:32 left, and another by UE’s Kerri Gasper for 59-58 with 52.7 seconds to play.
From there, the Lady Bears were unable to convert on their final five field goal tries, while Evansville hit six free throws in the final 35 seconds and 11-of-15 in the final period.
Missouri State dominated on the glass with a 56-31 rebounding lead, including career high efforts from Audrey Holt (13) and Gitzen (10), but shot only 30 percent overall, committed 19 turnovers, and attempted 10 fewer free throws than the Aces.
Fruendt led the Lady Bears with 26 points, moving into MSU’s top-20 career scorers and becoming the 12th MSU player to eclipse 500 points in a season with her 11th career 20-point