Gritty Bears Battle SMU to Buzzer in Puerto Vallarta
 
Guard Anthony Downing
 
Guard Anthony Downing
 

Nov. 25, 2012

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PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico -- A jumper by Nick Russell with 8.3 seconds to go was the difference as Southern Methodist (6-1) escaped with a 62-61 win over Missouri State here Sunday night (Nov. 25) in the third-place game of the Hoops for Hope Classic.

The Bears (2-4) took a 61-60 lead briefly on a 3-pointer by Marcus Marshall with 16.6 seconds left before Mustangs' coach Larry Brown called a timeout to set up the winning play. Nearly everyone in the Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center knew SMU would turn to Russell who finished with a game-high 25 points, but Marshall knocked it out of the SMU star's hands and out of bounds on his first drive to the basket. However, the Mustangs didn't misfire again, triggering the in-bounds play to Russell who knocked down a short jumper.

The Bears rushed down the court in the deciding moments, hoping to get the last score of the evening, but Marshall's three from the left wing was blocked. No foul call was made as time expired on Marshall's shot, and the horn sounded to dash MSU's hopes of a victory for the second straight night.

Anthony Downing had 20 points and a game-high 8 rebounds for Missouri State, while Marshall finished with 18, and Christian Kirk scored 8.

The comeback effort by Paul Lusk's Bears looked as gritty and determined as the one the previous night against South Carolina. Down 41-32 with just 12:49 to go and reeling from a barrage of foul calls, the Bears began stepping up against SMU. Dorrian Williams dropped in a 3-pointer just 14 seconds after the team faced its largest deficit of the night, and on its next possession Missouri State turned to Tomie Aromona who drilled a trey from the left baseline to make it a 41-38 game.

Aromona factored large again moments later when he found Marshall in transition for an easy layup at the 9:23 mark to bring the maroons back within 43-40. At the 8:27 mark, Marshall knocked down his third 3-pointer of the night to tie the game at 43.

Downing and Keith Pickens would do their part late in the game to keep the Bears in it as they converted game-tying field goals in traffic. Downing hit a pair of game-tying 3-pointers in the span of two minutes, while Pickens' tip-in was his only bucket of the night, but a huge one with just over five minutes remaining.

At the 3:56 mark, Downing's final trey of the night knotted the score at 51, but foul calls down the stretch caught up to MSU. The Mustangs would benefit from five charity shots during a clutch spot in the game, including a traditional 3-point play by Jones with 1:54 to go. Russell hit a floater in traffic with 70 ticks remaining and later got to the line with a whistle away from the ball to put SMU up 60-55 with 38 seconds left.

But the Bears did not quit. Downing began MSU's final surge with a floater and foul that resulted in a 3-point play for the Bears with 33.6 to play. His traditional trifecta pulled MSU within 60-58. MSU fouled Ryan Manuel immediately, and when he missed both free throws, the Bears got the ball back with a chance to tie. But instead of going for their fifth tie of the evening, Marshall put the Bears ahead with his fourth and final 3-pointer.

Despite the final possession of the game going against Missouri State, the never-say-die rumble to the finish by the young Bears was one of which to be proud. The Bears out-rebounded SMU 30-28 and forced one more turnover, 16-15. MSU thumbed its nose at the 28-13 foul differential and 37-10 free throw discrepancy to battle to the final horn against the athletic Mustangs.

The Bears were 22-for-52 (.423) from the field and 10-for-26 (.385) from long range while scoring 7-of-10 times at the line. Five different Bears knocked down 3-pointers on the night to help the team match a season high.

The Mustangs were 19-of-37 (.514) from the field, just 1-for-6 (.167) from 3-point range and 23-for-37 (.622) on its ample trips to the line.

In the first half, a late 10-0 run by Southern Methodist had the Mustangs ahead by a 26-24 margin at the intermission. The Bears scored the game's first nine points in three-and-a-half minutes as Downing scored five quickly, and Kirk posted the club's first two field goals. After a brief SMU run, Nathan Scheer dropped in a trey at the 15:26 mark to make it a 12-4 game.

SMU then reeled of seven straight to pull within one before a Marshall trey pushed the maroon-clad squad ahead 15-11 with 8:06 to go in the first period. Marshall scored four more unanswered as part of a 7-0 Bears' run that helped MSU on top 19-11 with seven minutes left in the opening stanza.

But aside from a baseline jumper by Downing and a three by Marshall at the horn, the rest of the first half belonged to the Mustangs who got to the line five times the rest of the way and ended the period on a 15-5 swing.

For his efforts, Downing's 36 points in two ball games in Puerto Vallarta earned him a spot on the all-tournament team.

The revitalized Bears return home on Saturday afternoon at 4:35 to take on Oral Roberts in non-conference play. Tickets for that game and all Bears' contests are on sale now at MissouriStateTix.com or after 10 a.m. Monday at the Chevy Pickup Window at JQH Arena or by phone at (417) 836-7678.


 

 

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