Hot Start Propels Bears to 79-51 Win Over UT Martin
SPRINGFIELD -- Missouri State used a hot first-half start to topple Tennessee-Martin, 79-51, Wednesday night at JQH Arena to improve to 8-0 on the season. Three Bears scored 13 points, including Adam Leonard, Kyle Weems and Jermaine Mallett.
Mallett scored MSU's first seven points as Cuonzo Martin's team led 20-7 five-and-a-half minutes into the game. After the Skyhawks (1-6) fought back to within 22-15 on a three-pointer by Cataurius Taylor at the 12:11 mark, Missouri State went on a 16-0 run and UT Martin was never closer than 17 the rest of the way.
Mallett, who finished with a career high, and Leonard did all their scoring in the first half, including a combined 4-for-4 from three-point range in the opening stanza.
In the second half, a variety of Bears got involved as the lead built to as many as 32 points on a Justin Fuehrmeyer basket with 8:50 to go in the contest. Nafis Ricks scored eight points in the second half and finished with 11 points overall and a career-best eight rebounds.
Eleven MSU players finished in the scoring column, helping MSU to a 32-9 edge in bench scoring. Mallett grabbed nine rebounds, and Keith Pickens matched Ricks' eight boards.
Weems tied a JQH Arena record with 4 steals and extended his streak to nine straight games scoring in double figures, while Leonard reached a career milestone with his 200th three-pointer in making a trey for the 28th straight ball game.
UT Martin was led by Reuben Clayton and Delrico Lane with 15 points apiece. Benzor Simmons, who came in averaging 22.0 points per game, finished with just seven points, but had a game-high 12 rebounds.
Both teams shot less than 30-percent from the field in the second half, but a 54.1-percent first-half gave the Bears a final shooting percentage of .422. MSU was 7-for-13 (.538) from beyond the arc and scored 24 points off of 23 UTM turnovers.
MSU's 8-0 record extends its best start since 1996-97 when Steve Alford's squad started 10-0.
Missouri State now embarks on a four-game road swing that starts Saturday at 7:05 p.m. against Arkansas State (3-4). The Bears return to JQH Arena on January 1 to play Illinois State at 7:05 p.m.