Lady Bears? Defense Keys 75-53 Victory in WNIT Opener
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Missouri State Lady Bears overcame a sluggish start to post a convincing 75-53 victory over Oral Roberts in first-round action in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament Friday evening at JQH Arena. Casey Garrison scored 19 of her game-high 26 points in the second half, and MSU turned in one of its best defensive performances of the season in holding the nation’s highest-scoring offense to its lowest point total of the season while forcing 30 turnovers.
Garrison went 6-of-10 from the floor, including 3-of-3 from beyond the three-point arc, after intermission to spark a Lady Bear offense that sputtered to its worst shooting performance of the season in the opening half. The sophomore guard’s first three of the second half with 16:09 left gave MSU the lead for good, and she would add two more key triples and totaled 13 points in all over a nine-minute span to help stretch the Lady Bear lead to 12 points.
Garrison’s scoring frenzy countered ORU’s early run in the second period that saw the visitors erase a six-point deficit to take a 28-26 lead on Janae Volker’s three from the top of the key at the 16:42 mark.
That’s when Garrison would heat up, beginning a 22-8 run that would ultimately hand them a 48-36 lead when Christiana Shorter sank two of her career-high 11 free throws on the night with 9:40 to play.
ORU (23-10) would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the way, with MSU extending its lead to as many as 24 in the closing minutes.
Shorter would finish the game with 15 points and 13 rebounds for her fourth consecutive double-double. The freshman’s effort on the boards helped MSU outrebound the Golden Eagles by a 62-39 margin, good for its highest single-game rebound total since a 65-board performance against Western Illinois on January 11, 1986.
Key to the Lady Bears success on the glass was a remarkable first-half effort on the offensive end in which they coralled 21 offensive rebounds to help balance a 7-of-41 (.171) shooting performance. The MSU defense did its job early on as well, turning in perhaps its best defensive half of the season. The Lady Bears held ORU to just one field goal over the final 13 minutes of the period to take a 22-18 led into intermission. The Golden Eagles went just 6-of-26 (.231) from the field and committed 17 first-half turnovers, as the Lady Bears scored the final eight points of the period.
Both teams came out of the gate firing, as Lacey Boshe received a feed from Jasmine Malone off the opening tip and converted a layup in traffic for a quick 2-0 MSU lead. Oral Roberts’ Jaci Bigham hit on her first two three-point attempts to stake the Golden Eagles to an 8-2 advantage. But the Lady Bears responded with an 8-0 run, capped by Shorter’s three-point play, to reclaim a two-point edge.
From that point, neither team could must much offense. The Lady Bears would hit just 4-of-25 shots from the floor over the first 12 minutes, but ORU countered by committing 12 turnovers during the same span.
After a Kevi Luper bucket with 7:25 to go gave ORU an 18-14 lead, the Lady Bears would make their move to close the half on an 8-0 run. Shorter’s free throw at the 4:08 mark put MSU up 19-18, and an Aly Stock free throw, followed by a baseline jumper from Garrison, gave MSU its four-point cushion at the break.
Missouri State (21-10) limited the Golden Eagles to just 17-of-55 (.309) shooting for the game, and held Luper-the nation’s sixth-leading scorer, who entered the game averaging nearly 25 points per outing-to just 13 points.
Despite shooting just .301 (22-of-73) themselves, the Lady Bears cashed in at the foul line, converting 26-of-33 (.788) tries.
With the victory, Missouri State’s first postseason appearance in four years will continue Sunday (March 21) when the Lady Bears host Samford (23-10) in a 2:05 p.m. contest at JQH Arena.(March 4) at UNI. Tickets will be available beginning Saturday (March 20) morning at 10 a.m. at the Missouri State Athletics Box Office inside the JQH Arena, or by phone at 417-836-7678.