Bears top Illinois State for fourth straight win
The Missouri State Bears spent the last 20 minutes of the game trying to distance themselves from an Illinois State team that refused to go away and when the dust settled the Bears finished with the same 12-point lead they’d had at halftime in a 73-61 Missouri Valley Conference basketball win over the Redbirds Tuesday night in Hammons Student Center.
The Bears’ fourth win in a row pushed their overall mark to 18-7 with five regular season games to go and stayed alone in third place in the MVC with a 9-5 league record. Illinois State slipped to 12-13 overall and 4-10 in the Valley.
The game saw Missouri State top the three million mark in Hammons Student Center home attendance. Now in their 31st season in HSC, the Bears pushed total men’s basketball Hammons attendance to 3,004,007. Missouri State is 376-98 (.793) for 474 home games in Hammons since the arena opened in 1976-77. The Bears are 11-2 at home this season.
The Bears expanded a 37-25 halftime lead to 17 at 49-32 five minutes into the second period. Illinois State clipped off 10 straight points to pull back within seven at 49-42 with 10:58 to play. The Bears answered with two baskets from Tyler Chaney and one each from Blake Ahearn and Drew Richards in just over two minutes to get the lead back to 15 at 57-42 and stretched it to 17 at 64-47 with five minutes left. The Redbirds made four threes from that point on as the Bears struggled at the foul line in the closing minutes and the lead dipped to 10 before the Bears closed it out.
ISU shook off a 7-0 Bears’ start as the Redbirds went up for the only time all night, 14-11. An 8-0 run put the Bears ahead for good and three-pointers from Justin Fuehrmeyer and Ahearn propelled MSU to its 12-point halftime margin.
After three straight wins in which their bench contributed 40, 35 and 28 points, the Bears got double-figure scoring performances from all five starters for only the second time all season. Ahearn led the way with 20 points as he hit 7-of-11 from the field and all five of his free throws. Chaney scored 13, Nathan Bilyeu had his first point-rebound double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds, Richards just missed a double-double with 11 points and nine boards, and Spencer Laurie scored 10. The Bears had a 50-25 rebound advantage for the contest to help offset .407 (24/59) shooting from the field and .569 (21/37) accuracy from the line.
Missouri State goes back on the road Saturday (Feb. 10) for an MVC test against the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Tipoff is 7:05 p.m.