Lady Bears Take Advantage of UNI Charity for Sixth Straight Win
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A short bench and a stiff challenge from a hot-shooting UNI squad couldn't stop the Missouri State Lady Bears from posting their sixth consecutive victory, a 90-80 decision over the Panthers Saturday at JQH Arena. Five Lady Bears scored in double figures, as Missouri State overcame a double-digit deficit for the second straight game to improve to 2-0 in Missouri Valley Conference play for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
Playing without the services of two regulars lost to injury in Thursday's win over Bradley, Missouri State came away with the victory despite a valiant comeback bid by the Panthers, who fought back from a 15-point deficit to pull to within 80-78 on a Jacqui Kalin three-pointer with 2:24 to play. After a Nicole Clausen steal, UNI had an opportunity to even the score, but Jaleshia Roberson came up with the biggest defensive stop of the afternoon. The sophomore guard drew an offensive foul from a driving Lizzie Boeck to spark a 10-2 MSU run to close out the victory.
Freshman Christiana Shorter followed with a key offensive rebound and putback off of a Casey Garrison missed jumper at the 1:12 mark to give the Lady Bears some breathing room. The MSU defense came to life when it mattered most as well, posting four defensive stops in the final minute of play after the Panthers cut the lead to two points.
MSU would then convert 8-of-8 free throw attempts in the final 58 seconds of regulation to seal the win. Garrison, who would score 10 of her game-high 27 points at the free throw line, accounted for six of those points, as MSU finished 36-of-40 (.900) from the line on the afternoon. The 36 free throws represent the best single-game performance by the Lady Bears at the foul line since Jan. 27, 2001, when they hit 36 against Wichita State.
Missouri State seized control of the contest with a big second-half run that turned a three-point deficit into a 69-54 advantage with just under 12 minutes to play. Trailing 47-44 with just under 18 minutes to go, a Lacey Boshe bucket started a 25-7 MSU run that would turn the momentum of the contest. Two Garrison free throws at the 16:46 mark put the Lady Bears on top for good, and an old-fashioned three-point play by Boshe on MSU's next possession made it a 51-47 game and ignited a season-high crowd of 4,788.
MSU scored six straight points at the foul line, then got a layup from Shorter to stretch the margin to double digits with 13:39 to play. A Melissa Busby three, followed by a Roberson jumper pushed the lead to 66-52, before Garrison capped the run with her only three-point field goal of the game with 11:55 remaining on the clock.
But the Panthers clawed their way back, scoring 19 of the ensuing 26 points to pull to within 76-73 on a Boeck three-point play with just over four minutes to go. After a Garrison basket on MSU's next possession, the two clubs traded free throws until Kalin's three drew UNI to within two points.
Clausen led UNI with 18 points, 16 of which came in the first half, as the Panthers finished the game 27-of-56 (.482) from the floor. MSU got a double-double from Shorter, who registered career highs of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Roberson (18 points), Boshe (12) and Busby (10) also finished in double figures for the Lady Bears, who shot .522 from the field in the second half to improve to 10-3 overall.
Both teams came out of the locker room hitting on all cylinders, trading baskets for the first four and-a-half and combining to convert 10 of the first 14 shots taken from the field in the game. UNI would hit on 14-of-28 field goal attempts in the opening half to take a 43-41 lead into intermission.
UNI (4-9, 0-2 MVC) was the first to gain the upper hand in the game, reeling off nine unanswered points to build a 19-12 lead with just under 13 minutes to play in the first half. MSU responded with a 12-6 spurt over a four-minute span to pull to within 25-24, only to see UNI come right back with a 14-4 run of its own to claim a 39-28 advantage, its largest of the game.
The Lady Bears will hit the road next week for a pair of MVC contests, beginning with a Thursday night match-up with Drake in Des Moines. Tip-off from the Knapp Center is slated for 7:05 p.m.