Lady Bears Advance in WNIT with 75-54 Win over Samford



SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- After starting slowly for the second straight contest, the Missouri State Lady Bears used a 17-6 run as a springboard to 75-54 victory over the Samford Bulldogs in second-round WNIT action Sunday at JQH Arena. Sophomore guard Casey Garrison posted a double-double of 32 points and 12 rebounds, while the MSU defense limited the Bulldog offense to just .269 shooting in the second half to secure the seventh consecutive WNIT win for the Lady Bears.

Garrison recorded her fourth 30-point game as a Lady Bear and her eighth career double-double by going 10-of-18 from the floor and 10-of-12 at the charity stripe. The Bolivar, Mo., product scored 19 points in the second half to pace an MSU offense that converted 12-of-24 second-period field goal attempts to wrap up its second 20+ point victory in as many games.

MSU 's defense would co-star in the victory, holding the Bulldogs to .333 shooting for the game and a mere three field goals over the final 10:05, giving the Lady Bear offense ample time to extend its lead to as many as 23 points in the closing minutes.

Samford jumped on top early via its three-point shooting, as Monica Maxwell and Emily London combined to go 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the game's first eight minutes to stake the Bulldogs to a 12-9 advantage. Megan Wilderotter connected on SU's fifth triple of the period with 6:45 remaining to start a 5-0 spurt that gave Samford a 22-17 edge, which represented the largest margin of the opening half for either squad.

Sparked by a Garrison 18-foot jumper and two more free throws from the MVC Player of the Year, Missouri State bounced back to score six straight points and reclaim the lead. Garrison led all scorers with 13 first-half points to help the Lady Bears overcome a 5-of-12 (.417) shooting performance from three-point range by the Bulldogs.

Missouri State took control of the contest for good with a 17-6 run over an eight-minute stretch spanning the final 0:55 of the opening half and the first 6:09 of the second. In a first half that featured five ties and 11 lead changes, MSU seized the upper hand on a Christiana Shorter layup with 32 seconds to go, and Garrison drove length of the floor in the final seven seconds to hand the home team its largest lead of the game heading into the break.

The Lady Bears kept the pressure on at the onset of the second stanza, outscoring SU 12-3 after Savannah Hill's basket on the Bulldogs' second possession of the half pulled the visitors to within 31-30. Garrison knocked down a pair of free throws to kick-off the spurt, then converted a basket in the paint at the 16:28 mark to push the MSU lead to five points. Jacque Griggs's 15-footer pushed the Lady Bear advantage to 39-32, and Jasmine Malone drained a three-pointer with 13:57 to play to make it a nine-point game.

The Bulldogs (23-11) would claw their way back to within four points with by the eight-minute mark, but Garrison combined with Shorter to score the next 14 MSU points over a three-and-a-half minute stretch to put the game out of reach. Jaleshia Roberson got into the act as well, snapping an 0-for-15 shooting slump from three-point range by canning a long jumper from the right wing with 3:46 left, then scored four more points over the ensuing 1:18 to push the MSU lead to 19.

MSU's 22nd victory of the season was made possible by another strong performance on the boards. The Lady Bears finished with a +13 edge in total boards, just one game after posting their best single-game effort on the glass in 24 years with a 62-rebound night against Oral Roberts.

The Lady Bears also committed a season-low seven turnovers and converted 13 Samford miscues into a 15-5 edge in points off turnovers.

In addition to Garrison's performance, the Lady Bears got a standout effort from Shorter, who just missed her fifth consecutive double-double with a 17-point, 8-rebound afternoon. 

Missouri State (22-10) will continue is postseason home stand with a third-round WNIT contest Thursday (March 25) against the winner of Monday night's Illinois/Marquette second-round match-up in Champaign, Ill. Tickets for Thursday's 7:05 p.m. game will be available beginning Monday (March 22) morning at 10 a.m. at the Missouri State Athletics Box Office in JQH Arena or by phone at 417-856-7678.



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