ST. LOUIS -- Third-seeded Evansville had an answer for every Missouri State run and out-rebounded the Bears by a 37-22 margin to secure a 72-64 Missouri Valley Conference quarterfinal-round victory here late Friday.
MSU (16-16) was led by seniors Kyle Weems and Caleb Patterson with 23 and 11 points, respectively. Weems also snagged a team-high 10 rebounds for his 14th double-double. It was his 21st career 20-point game. Anthony Downing also added 10 points for the Bears, who dropped their fifth straight game to close out the season.
Evansville (16-14), which topped MSU for the third time this season, got 20 points and 8 rebounds from Kenny Harris, while Colt Ryan scored 19, and Denver Holmes added 10.
The Aces jumped out to an 8-3 lead and took control out of the gates. Midway through the opening half, MSU got back-to-back three-pointers by Patterson and Weems to start an 11-2 run. Patterson's jumper at the 10:08 mark capped the run and put MSU on top for the only time in the game, 22-21.
From there, Evansville got to the foul line three straight trips to stretch its advantage back to five before a Troy Taylor steal and layup was an exclamation mark on an 8-0 run by UE that made it a 29-22 game.
MSU went on another mini run just before the half when Michael Bizoukas made a free throw, and Weems nailed a long-range three to trim an 11-point deficit to seven. But a driving layup by Harris with four seconds left on the first-stanza clock pushed Evansville's lead to 43-34 at the intermission.
The Bears cut their nine-point halftime deficit to two at the 17:37 mark after MSU scored the first seven points in the second half. A traditional three-point play by Weems made it 43-41 to end a 7-0 run. But as they did all night, the Aces had an answer and subsequently reeled off eight unanswered points to regain control 53-43 at the 12:04 mark.
The closest the Bears would bet the rest of the way was seven on three occasions. A free throw by Jarmar Gulley with just over seven minutes left made it 55-48 as Evansville went over six minutes without a point to help the Bears inch back in it. Later, Christian Kirk and Anthony Downing helped get the Bears within 63-56 and 65-58, respectively, with baskets inside a minute-and-a-half to go. But Evansville went 11-for-12 from the free throw line in the final 2:22 to ice the win.
MSU shot a respectable .431 (22-for-51) from the field, but were just 4-for-16 (.250) from bonus distance and 14-for-22 (.636) at the line. Just six days after out-rebounding Evansville 50-31 in the regular-season finale, MSU collected just 22 caroms and only seven on the offensive end. The Bears also committed just eight turnovers after committing 24 a week ago in Evansville.
The eight-point defeat was MSU's 12th single-digit loss of the campaign.
Evansville was 23-for-50 (.460) from the field and 3-for-11 (.273) from three-point range. UE was 23-for-29 (.793) at the line with 12 offensive rebounds, 37 total boards and just 11 turnovers.
The Bears will now await the postseason tournament announcements for the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) and College Basketball Invitational (CBI) to determine if they will play another game this season. First-year head coach Paul Lusk indicated in the post-game press conference that he and his team would accept such an invitation.
If a postseason bid does not come, Weems will finish with 1,868 career points in 134 games, which remains No. 2 on the Missouri State scoring list. With 721 points at MSU, Patterson would finish 63rd in career scoring.