Lady Bears Handle Rice in WNIT Opener, 76-65
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Missouri State Lady Bears used a 15-2 scoring run to take control of their opening round game in the Women's National Invitation Tournament against Rice en route to a 76-65 victory Thursday evening at JQH Arena. MSU scored the final seven points of the first half and eight of the first 10 of the second to turn the tide for good against the Owls.
After Rice battled back to cut the Missouri State lead down to two points in the closing minutes, the Lady Bears again cranked up its offense with a 13-4 game-ending spurt to lock up their 24th victory of the season.
Casey Garrison led the way with a near-triple-double consisting of 18 points, eight rebounds and a season-high nine assists. With the win the Lady Bears (24-10) advance to a second-round home match-up Sunday (March 20) against Arkansas, which defeated Lamar by a 91-65 score Thursday in Fayetteville.
After trailing by six with just over seven minutes to play in the opening half, Missouri State rallied late in the period to take a 37-34 advantage into the break. Garrison totaled 10 points over the first 20 minutes of play to pace Lady Bear offense, which converted 16-of-32 (.500) field goal attempts in the half.
Rice built a 30-24 lead on the strength of a 15-6 run, keyed by a trio of three-point baskets. After MSU took an 18-15 lead on a Christiana Shorter bucket in the paint, Morgan Mayse knocked down one of the Owls' five first-half three-pointers to initiate the run. D'Frantz Smart would also heat up from the perimeter, burying a pair of threes during the run, the last of which handed the visitors their largest lead of the night with 7:02 to go.
But Missouri State came back with baskets by Lacey Boshe and Garrison over the ensuing minute to slice the lead to two points. Smart and Jessica Kuster would score one more time each for the Owls, before Karly Buer's 15-footer at the 2:20 mark kicked-off the Lady Bears' closing run. Whitney Edie scored three points in the final 1:30, including a layup with 27 ticks left on the clock to hand MSU the three-point halftime advantage.
Rice cashed in from three-point range, finishing the half 5-of-9 (.556), while MSU went without a three-pointer in the first half for the second straight game.
The Lady Bears would not let up in the early stages of the second period, as Shorter and Garrison combined for eight points over the first three-and-a-half minutes of the stanza to hand MSU a 45-36 margin.
Rice would climb back to within three by the 11:16 mark behind five points from Memri Carmon. MSU would stretch its advantage back to seven after Boshe converted in the lane twice and Edie knocked down a short jumper with 9:50 to play.
But the Owls would out-score the Lady Bears 12-7 over the next six minutes to pull to within 63-61 when Jessica Goswitz canned a triple with 3:58 remaining on the clock.
The Lady Bears would answer right back with two big baskets from Edie and a pair of Roberson free throws to put the game away.
After going just 6-of-17 from the foul line in Sunday's MVC Tournament championship loss to UNI, the Lady Bears bounced back to convert 7-of-8 tries from the line in the final 3:23 to help put the game away.
Three Lady Bears joined Garrison in double figures, including Edie, who totaled a season-high 13 points to go along with seven boards. Shorter finished with 12 points and six rebounds, and Boshe came through with 13 points to help the MSU bench out-score the Rice reserves by a 32-17 margin.
MSU finished the contest 29-of-63 (.460) from the floor to rebound from a .288 shooting day Sunday.
Up next, Missouri State and Arkansas will square off at 2:05 p.m., Sunday at JQH Arena in the second round of the WNIT. Tickets for the game will go on-sale Friday morning at 10 a.m., by phone at 417-836-7678, or in person at the Missouri State Athletics Box Office at JQH Arena
Additional ticket information can be obtained through the Missouri State Basketball Postseason Central page at www.MissouriStateBears.com