Bears Turn Back Hampton, 81-67, in Tourney Opener
Nov. 24, 2013
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SPRINGFIELD – Missouri State got career highs from Jarmar Gulley and Christian Kirk with 23 and 21 points, respectively, to turn back visiting Hampton, 81-67, here Sunday in the opening round of the Corpus Christi Challenge.
Hampton (2-3) got a game-high 29 points from Deron Powers, while Emmanuel Okoroba scored 12, and Du’Vaughn Maxwell snagged a game-high 14 rebounds for the Pirates.
The Bears improved to 4-0 on the season with a solid effort from their bench as Kirk helped pace a 49-point afternoon from the MSU reserves. After starter Marcus Marshall went down with an injury, just over 12-and-a-half minutes into the contest, and Keith Pickens hit the floor hard with 9:43 to go, the Bears rallied from a 22-21 deficit to close out the first half on a 21-9 run.
Kirk started the rally with a 12-foot jumper. Ron Mvouika then knocked down an 18-footer, and Gulley followed up with a shot jump shot to push the Bears ahead 27-25 with just under six minutes left in the first half. At the five-minute mark, Kirk sparked an 8-2 outburst by MSU with a layup and later converted a traditional 3-point play with 1:17 left in the opening stanza to extend Missouri State’s lead to 40-31. Gavin Thurman closed out the first half with a jumper from the right baseline at the horn to give the home club a double-figure lead, 42-31, for the first time.
The clubs played even for the first nine minutes of the second half as Hampton got a pair of 3-pointers from Powers and a trey from Brian Darden to keep pace. Meanwhile, MSU turned to Gulley who scored all eight of the Bears’ points during that stretch after a Tyler McCullough dunk to open the half.
MSU began to get separation with just under 12 minutes to go. A traditional 3-point play by Powers at the 11:50 mark cut Missouri State’s lead to 56-47, but the Bears then scored the game’s next eight points over the next 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Devon Thomas started the rally with an acrobatic layup, and Mvouika kept things going with a free throw on the front end of a two-shot opportunity. He missed his second attempt, but Kirk cleaned up the miss and scored off the glass to put the Bears up by 14. Thomas would later add a free throw, and Gulley closed out the run with a layup that gave Missouri State a 64-47 advantage with 9:35 remaining.
Gulley and Kirk carried the load the rest of the way, and Gulley’s 3-pointer with 4:20 remaining gave Missouri State its biggest lead of the day, 77-56. The senior scored 9 points in the final 7:07, while Kirk tallied 6 points in the final five minutes to close things out.
Hampton did not collect any points from its reserves until a 3-pointer by Reggie Price with 38 seconds left in the game.
The Pirates out-rebounded the Bears by a 38-32 margin, but managed only 6 second-chance points from its 14 offensive caroms. Hampton also turned the ball over 17 times and made just 37.5 percent (24-of-64) of its field goal attempts.
Missouri State was over 50 percent from the field for the third straight game as the Bears made 31-of-59 (.525) shots, including 4-of-12 (.333) from beyond the arc. MSU was also 15-for-23 (.652) at the line and collected a season-high 11 steals – just one shy of the JQH Arena record.
Kirk led all Missouri State players with 9 rebounds, while Dorrian Williams added 6 off the bench, and Mvouika tallied a game-high 5 assists. Gulley snagged 4 steals for the second game in a row.
Missouri State will close out a four-game home stand on Tuesday when it entertains Liberty (1-4) in the second-round of the Corpus Christi Challenge at JQH Arena, starting at 7:05 p.m. The tournament then heads south for the semifinals and finals in Corpus Christi, Texas where the Bears will take on Texas A&M on Friday and either Virginia or SMU on Saturday.
Tickets for the Liberty game are on sale now at MissouriStateBears.com, or starting at 10 a.m., Monday at (417) 836-7678 and in person at the Athletics Box Office at JQH Arena.