BEARS LOSE LATE LEAD, FALL 77-74 AT CREIGHTON
The Missouri State men’s basketball team went on a 16-0 second-half run and got 21 points from Blake Ahearn but could not hold on to an 11-point lead with 4:21 left as Creighton’s Nate Funk took over to lead the Bluejays to a 77-74 Missouri Valley Conference victory Saturday afternoon before fans 15,684 at Qwest Center Omaha. MSU dropped to 10-3 and 1-1 in MVC play, while Creighton jumped to 7-4 and 1-0 in the league.
An 8-0 run gave the Bears a 70-59 lead with 4:21 left, but CU responded and took the lead at 72-71 after a Dane Watts trey with 57 seconds on the clock. Springfield native Anthony Tolliver hit one free throw and missed the second with 21 seconds left but the Jays got the offensive board and Funk drained a pair from the charity stripe to give CU a 75-71 lead.
Spencer Laurie hit a three to pull the Bears within one before Funk hit two more free throws and then knocked away MSU’s inbounds pass with two seconds left to seal the Creighton victory, 77-74.
The Bears scored the first four points of the contest but quickly fell behind 15-6 after a 15-2 run by Creighton that was capped by Pierce Hibma’s layup at the 13:11 mark.
Deven Mitchell converted a conventional three-point play with 7:34 remaining in the first half to pull the Bears within three, but the Bluejays scored three-straight buckets to regain a nine point advantage at 28-19. CU pushed the lead to 11 before MSU fought back to go into the break trailing 44-37, despite the Jays shooting a sizzling 65 percent from the floor.
Blake Ahearn knocked down a pair of free throws to tie the game with 14:25 remaining, and Drew Richards put home a hook shot from the right block on the next possession to give the Bears their first lead since early on at 54-52. Funk hit a reverse layup to end CU’s 5:25 scoreless drought, but not before Missouri State had completed a 16-0 run.
Nathan Bilyeu joined Ahearn in double figures with 11 points and a team-high five rebounds, but MSU was outrebounded by the Jays by a 32-21 margin.
Missouri State hit 28-of-54 shots from the field for 52 percent and hit 10-of-14 free throws, but three of those misses came in the closing minutes.
Ahearn’s 21 points included five three-pointers, and his trey with 6:00 remaining in the first half was the 3,000th in Missouri State history in this the 21st year of the three-point line.
Funk scored 23 to lead all scorers, and Tolliver added 20 and six boards.
Missouri State is next in action when it travels to Peoria, Ill., on January 2 to face Bradley at 7:05 p.m. The game will be televised on Mediacom Cable Channel 14.