Missouri State seniors Aubrey Buckley and Liza Fruendt combined for 34 points and 14 rebounds, helping the second-seeded Lady Bears to a 76-68 victory over No. 7 Bradley Friday evening in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament quarterfinal at TaxSlayer Center.
Missouri State moved to 20-10 overall and 19-4 in its last 23 games with its eighth consecutive win, reaching the 20-win plateau for the second time in five seasons under Kellie Harper and 19th time in program history. The victory also marked MSU’s 20th trip to the MVC Tournament semifinals, and the 850th all-time women’s basketball win for the school.
The lead changed hands six times in the first quarter, the last during a 7-0 MSU run that ended with Brice Calip’s 3-point play for a 17-11 score with 1:25 left. Another 7-0 run made it 28-19 Lady Bears on an Alexa Willard jumper with 5:36 on the clock, and MSU weathered five Bradley 3-pointers in the period to take a 40-33 advantage into intermission after Fruendt buried one of her four treys at the halftime buzzer.
Fruendt connected from long range again early in the third quarter for MSU’s first double-digit lead at 45-35, Shameka Ealy knocked down a triple for a 52-39 advantage, and Buckley’s jumper as time ran out in the third quarter made it 57-44 with 10 minutes to play.
Bradley (13-18) opened the final period on a 7-0 run to close to six points, and the Lady Bears answered with Buckley scoring five in a 9-0 run to make it 66-51 with 6:39 left. The Braves mounted a furious rally over the next four minutes cut the gap to 70-66, and Buckley came up with a huge 3-point play with 35 seconds left to push the score back to 75-68. Calip added a free throw with 25 seconds remaining for the final margin to cap a 10-point effort.
Buckley finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, and Fruendt added 16 points and six boards. Danielle Gitzen dished out four assists without a turnover, and MSU committed only seven miscues in the game.
The Lady Bears shot 44 percent in the game, going 7-for-14 from long range and 17-of-19 at the foul line. Bradley shot 42 percent, hit 10 treys, and owned a 38-34 rebounding edge.
Missouri State will play its semifinal game at 4 p.m. Saturday against the winner of No. 3 UNI and sixth-seeded Illinois State. Top-seeded Drake and No. 4 Southern Illinois meet up in the other semifinal.