Lady Bears Rally Late for First Win of 2009-10 Season
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Missouri State Lady Bears used a 14-0 scoring run to seize control of a see-saw battle with Saint Louis, eventually coming away with a 75-59 decision and their first victory of the 2009-10 season Wednesday evening at JQH Arena. MSU's three sophomore captains accounted for 54 points in the win, including a career-high scoring night turned in by birthday-girl Jasmine Malone.
Trailing 52-51 with just under eight minutes to play, the Lady Bears started a rally that would ultimately squash the visiting Billikens' hopes of a 2-0 start to the season. Malone would score eight points - including five straight at one point - during MSU's critical run, starting with a pair of free throws with 6:54 to play that gave the Lady Bears the lead for good. She would add a three-pointer at the 4:32 mark that gave the home team its first double-digit lead, and all but ended any suspense about the final outcome of the contest.
MSU would end the contest by scoring 24 of the final 31 points, holding the Billikens scoreless for nearly five minutes when it mattered most. The Lady Bears' defense played a key role in the victory, limiting SLU to just .281 (9-of-32) shooting in the second half and forcing 22 turnovers on the night.
Malone made sure her 20th birthday was a memorable one, finishing with 19 points, eight boards, three steals and two blocks. Fellow sophomores Casey Garrison and Lacey Boshe also came up big, finishing with 20 and 15 points, respectively. Garrison narrowly missed a double-double, pulling down game highs of nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
The Lady Bears big second-half rally came after they saw a nine-point lead evaporate in the last two minutes of the first half. SLU closed the first half by scoring nine of the final 10 points to nearly negate a 29-20 MSU lead, and the Billikens kept the pressure on to open the second period. The visitors scored the first four points of the half to take their first lead since the nine-minute mark of the first half.
That's when the Lady Bears awoke from their slumber to reel off 10 straight points, capped by Jaleshia Roberson's three-pointer with 16:19 left on the clock.
The two teams traded blows for much of the ensuing five-minute stretch before a Missouri State foul on a three-point attempt by Katie Paganelli sent the SLU guard to the foul line, where she sank all three tries to cut the Billikens' deficit to four with 10:54 to go. SLU kept chipping away, getting a Janisha Gearlds' bucket one minute later and a Lauren Woods layup with 8:22 to go to take a 52-51 lead.
From there, the Lady Bears' sophomore trio took over, helping MSU (1-1) avoid its fourth straight 0-2 start to a season.
Missouri State started strong, building a 9-3 lead on the strength of a 7-0 scoring run in the opening minutes. Garrison converted an old-fashioned three-point play, and Boshe added a pair of free throws moments later to stake the home team to an early six-point advantage. A Malone trey helped diminish four straight MSU misses at the foul line to briefly give the Lady Bears a four-point lead.
The Billikens, however, came back with a 9-2 run to claim a 17-14 edge, their largest of the half.
MSU would rebound to score 15 of the next 18 points, reclaiming the lead with just over eight minutes to go in the period. The Lady Bears would then extend their margin to 29-20 on back-to-back baskets by Regan Soldner and Boshe and a free throw from Melissa Busby with 2:34 to go.
But the Billikens cashed in over the final two minutes, getting five points from Amanda Kemezys and four more from Woods to close to within one point.
Woods finished with a game-high 21 points to lead the Billikens (1-1), while Kemezys totaled 14 for the visitors.
Missouri State will wrap up its three-game home stand Saturday (Nov. 21) with a 1:05 p.m. contest against Southeast Missouri State at JQH Arena.