Missouri State held No. 2 seed Southern Illinois scoreless for more than five minutes in crunch time of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament quarterfinal game here Friday evening, but came up just short in a 67-63 loss to the Salukis.
Down by 14 with 6:15 to play, the Bears (18-15) had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead in the deciding moments. The comeback was paced by senior Jarrid Rhodes, who led a remarkable 12-0 MSU run with six of his career-high 21 points during the stretch. Jarred Dixon’s steal and layup with 5:37 to play got MSU within 63-53 before Rhodes knocked down a pair of jumpers to get the Bears within six.
Fellow senior Alize Johnson went coast to coast for a layup with 2:32 to play, and then Dixon made it a 63-61 contest at the 1:29 mark with his 15-foot jumper.
The Salukis (20-12) finally broke out of their slump with a left-side layup by Aaron Cook with just 58 seconds left to give SIU a four-point advantage. But Dixon, who finished with 16 points for the Bears, quickly retaliated with a drive to the bucket, drawing a foul, and getting the Bears back within two points of the lead on a pair of free throws at the 47-second mark.
SIU worked the shot clock down to its limit before Cook missed a short jumper. Johnson snagged the rebound for the Bears with less than 20 seconds to go and got the ball ahead to Ryan Kreklow. But SIU’s Kyle Smithpeters came up with the loose ball when Kreklow briefly lost the handle and fed it down the floor to Sean Lloyd who scored in transition to make it a 67-63 contest.
The Bears were able to get off a final shot, but like the comeback effort itself, it came up just short in a heart-breaking decision.
Southern Illinois was able to climb ahead by double figures behind a 17-4 run that started midway through the second half. A 3-pointer by Kreklow and layup by Tanveer Bhullar both pulled Missouri State within one point of SIU in the second half. But after Bhullar’s bucket made it a 48-47 game, the Salukis reeled off 17 of the game’s next 21 points over the next five minutes – including three 3-pointers – to lead 63-49.
“It was a very good game,” said MSU head coach Paul Lusk. “They made a run while we struggled, but we really fought. Obviously at the end, we needed to get to the rim, and we coughed it up. Give SIU credit. I’m proud of our fight.”
Kreklow scored nine points off the bench for Missouri State, while Johnson finished with six points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Missouri State scored 23-of-51 (.451) field goals and 7-of-22 (.318) from long range on the night. The Bears were also 10-of-13 (.769) at the foul line and were out-rebounded by a narrow 31-30 margin.
Southern Illinois got 13 points from Lloyd and 11 from Kavion Pippen. The Salukis made 28-of-60 (.467) shots overall and 9-of-21 (.429) from 3-point range. SIU got to the foul line just three times, making two, with just seven turnovers.
In the first half, the Bears used a 7-0 run to lead 11-5 just over five minutes into the game and then responded to an SIU trey with a 3-pointer out of the corner by Kreklow to take a 14-8 lead at the midway point.
MSU went nearly four minutes without a point from there, and SIU used a 9-0 outburst to take the lead back. However with just over three minutes to play in the opening stanza, the Bears netted 3-pointers by Rhodes and Dixon to tie the game, 24-24, with 2:18 to play.
The Salukis turned to seldom-used swing man Rudy Stradnieks down the stretch for two key scores, including a 3-pointer, and led 29-25. Rhodes dropped in a late trey for the Bears before the intermission to make it a 29-28 contest at its midway point.