Lady Bears down Evansville for first MVC win
The Missouri State Lady Bears turned in a solid wire-to-wire effort in picking up their first Missouri Valley Conference win of the season with a 76-65 victory over Evansville in women’s college basketball Thursday evening at Hammons Student Center. Melissa Busby knocked down three critical second-half three-pointers, and MSU put the game away by connecting on 9-of-10 free throw attempts down the stretch to improve to 3-11 overall and 1-2 in the Valley.
Busby, who scored 10 of her 13 points in the second half, buried three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to turn a four-point MSU lead into a 56-46 ballgame with just over six minutes left in the game and her fourth trey of the night at the 3:47 mark gave the Lady Bears a 12-point cushion, their largest of the half.
Evansville would rally late in the game behind the play of Ashley Austin, who scored all 15 of her points in the second half, including eight in the final 2:39. Austin connected from three-point range with 1:11 left on the clock to cut the MSU lead to 67-63 immediately following a UE steal of an inbound pass that came after she had completed the back end of a three-point play.
But the Lady Bears would salt the game away with an outstanding effort from the free throw line over the final 1:02. Tahnee Balerio, who tallied 13 of her 16 points in the second stanza, was a perfect 6-of-6 and Jasmyne Watson converted 3-of-4 tries from the charity stripe in that stretch to put the finishing touches on MSU’s first conference win in their last six tries and just their third win in 14 outings in 2007-08.
Missouri State led for all but 64 seconds, using a 21-6 early scoring run to grab a 14-point advantage with just over eight minutes to go in the opening period. But Evansville chipped away at the lead, outscoring MSU 15-2 over a four-minute span to close the gap to 28-27 at the 3:53 mark. Courtney Felke went 3-of-5 from three-point range during that stretch and UE took advantage of 12 offensive rebounds to climb back into the contest.
Missouri State pushed its lead back to six on Watson’s conventional three-point play with 2:20 to play in the half before UE’s Shannon Novosel tallied four of her six first-half points in the final 2:02 to cut the Lady Bear lead to 34-31 at the break.
The Lady Bears reeled off the first five points of the second half to take an eight-point lead, before Felke and Austin closed the margin to 39-37 with three-pointers on consecutive trips down the court for Evansville.
Balerio’s three with 12:04 to play made it a five-point game, and a pair of Maggie Dwyer free throws with 7:43 to go turned it into a 50-43 ballgame before UE’s Robyn Jennings answered with a long-range jumper to trim the deficit to four points and set the stage for Busby’s heroics.
Behind Busby’s 4-of-7 performance from beyond the arc, Missouri State shot 50 percent (9-of-18) from three-point range while holding the Purple Aces to just .276 (8-of-29) shooting from long range. The Lady Bears enjoyed their second-best shooting night of the season, hitting 46 percent (23-of-50) from the field and 21-of-27 from the foul line.
Dwyer led MSU with 17 points and added six boards, three steals and two assists to the Lady Bear attack. UE’s Rebekah Parker paced the Purple Aces (6-7 overall, 1-2 MVC) with 18 points, while Felke chipped in 14.
The Lady Bears will wrap up their two-game homestand Saturday afternoon with a 2:05 p.m. matchup against defending MVC champion Southern Illinois.