Bears Get on Track in Second Half to Top UMES, 70-53
Missouri State used a 19-4 run midway through the second half to put away a pesky Maryland Eastern Shore club, 70-53, to conclude the first night of the Hispanic College Fund Challenge at JQH Arena.
Kyle Weems led the Bears with 16 points, while Adam Leonard scored 11 points behind three treys as the Bears improved to 2-0.
UMES, which fell to 0-3, got 11 points apiece from Hillary Haley and Kevin White.
After an even first half, the Bears stormed out of the gate in the second half, putting 10 points on the board in the first five minutes. The Fighting Hawks, however, refused to be shaken by Leonard's three and a bucket by Jermaine Mallett that gave MSU a 31-26 lead just 72 seconds into the second period.
But, just after the second media timeout of the second half, a dunk by Weems, a layup by Mallett, and back-to-back follow-ups by Weems gave the Bears their first double-figure lead of the evening, 49-39 with 10:05 to play. MSU would parlay that into an 18-point lead within the next five minutes as they wrapped a 19-4 run to extend their advantage to 61-43 at the 5:19 mark.
Will Creekmore got to the free throw line three times in a span of less than two minutes during the run and then made a layup to help him to a six-point night. For his toughness down the stretch and gritty play, Creekmore earned the game ball from coach Cuonzo Martin after the game.
MSU shot 55.6 percent from the field in the second half, but sloppy free throw shooting all night long led to an 18-for-31 (.581) effort for the night. The Bears, however, outrebounded UMES by a 42-29 margin and turned the ball over just 10 times.
UMES finished 18-for-47 (.383) from the field and made just 2-of-8 free throws in the second half, finishing at .571 (12-for-21) from the line.
There were 10 ties and six lead changes in a sloppy first half that resulted in a 26-26 deadlock at the intermission.
The Bears jumped out to a 7-2 lead on a three-pointer by Leonard three-and-a-half minutes into the ball game. And after a layup by Jehle at the 13:27 mark made the score 11-6, UMES went on a 7-0 run to tie the game, 13-13.
From there, neither team led by more than three points, and a three-pointer by UMES reserve Tim Burns with 1:30 to go in the opening stanza tied the game, 26-26, where it remained at the half. Weems had nine points in the first 20 minutes for MSU.
The three-day tournament continues Saturday with Maryland Eastern Shore playing Eastern Michigan at 5:30 p.m., before the Bears lock horns with The Citadel (2-1) at 8:05 p.m.
The Citadel was a 63-56 winner over EMU (1-1) earlier Friday as Cameron Wells scored a game-high 24 points and was 10-for-12 at the free throw line.