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MSU Sophomore Christian Kirk (42) prepares to drive to the basket against Evansville's Egidijus Mockevicius (55) in second half action Saturday at JQH Arena
The MSU Bears got a game winning three pointer from senior Anthony Downing with 43 seconds left in regulation, completing a 62-61 comeback win over the Evansville Purple Aces Saturday afternoon at JQH Arena in Springfield.
Marcus Marshall missed a free throw with 16 seconds left, giving the Aces a chance to win the game, but Colt Ryan missed a jumper with six seconds remaining.
The Bears went back to the free throw line with two seconds on the clock, but Keith Pickens missed the front end of a one and one.
Evansville got the rebound and immediately called timeout. The Aces threw a cross court pass that was caught by Jaylon Moore, who shoveled it to Ned Cox, but Cox missed a jumper as time ran out.
Downing says he wasn't phased by missing three of his first 11 shots Saturday. "Even when I struggle shooting the ball, I still have confidence in my jump shot," Downing said. "If I'm open, I'm taking it. That's my role, to shoot open shots and be a leader on this team. I knew we needed a big play and I wanted to step up. I wanted to lead us to victory so I stepped up and knocked it down."
The Bears and the Aces went back and forth in a low scoring first half that featured five ties and eight lead changes, with Evansville going into the locker room clinging to a 24-23 lead.
Cox gave Evansville momentum early in the second half, hitting back to back three pointers in the first two and a half minutes of play, giving his team a 32-25 lead.
The Purple Aces built their advantage to 11 points at the 14:56 mark when Ryan hit a jumper, giving Evansville its largest lead.
The Bears then got to work clawing away at the deficit. Marshall hit MSU's first three pointer of the afternoon with 13:04 remaining to pull the Bears within six, 38-32.
Evansville extended its lead to nine, but the Bears wouldn't give in, getting solid inside play from Christian Kirk, who finished with 12 points and five rebounds.
The home team also got some big shots to fall after hitting only 27% from the field in the first half. Nathan Scheer drained three shots from beyond the arc, including one with 2:45 left in regulation that gave the Bears their first lead of the second half, 59-57.
Ryan gave the Aces a 61-59 lead with 1:01 to play, but that was quickly erased on Downing's game winner moments later.
Marshall finished with 14 points to lead MSU, followed by Kirk's 12 and Scheer's 11.
Ryan's 24 points led the way for Evansville. He had only four at halftime.
The Bears were able to get to the free throw line, and had success, hitting 19 of 26 attempts (73.1%). Marshall went 9-11 from the stripe.
Missouri State Head Coach Paul Lusk called it a great effort by his team. "Our guys had a very strong will today, and I'm very proud of them," Lusk said.
Lusk, who equated playing Evansville to sitting in the dentist chair for two hours, watched in anticipation on the sideline when his team got two huge defensive stops at the end. "The one Colt Ryan shot on the baseline, it looked like it was going in. We've been in such close games with these guys, you don't expect it."
On the last play, the Aces surprised many in the arena when they didn't get the ball to their shooting star, Ryan. "They run a play for Colt Ryan in those situations," Lusk said. "We were a little bit worried about the long ball. We backed Nate up a little bit. Christian did everything right. He kept himself between the basket and the player. The Moore kid caught it and I don't know exactly how he shoveled it to Ned Cox. But they got it and got by him on the run and then Pick came over and had a nice defensive play."
Lusk said the game started to change when the Bears started throwing the ball into the post and Kirk was aggressive. "He gave us something, and that was very good. We have to drive the basketball."
Scheer says his last three pointer, the one that gave his team the lead, felt good. "I think Kirk passed me that last three that I hit and I was just able to knock it down. I hit a couple before it and had a little rhythm."
Missouri State improves to 7-16 overall and 5-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference, while the Aces drop to 13-10, 6-5.
The Bears will travel to Northern Iowa Tuesday night for a 7:00 tipoff.
The Bears ended a five game losing streak to Evansville. The Aces' average margin of victory in those five games was 6.6 points, with three overtime decisions.
Saturday's announced attendance at JQH Arena was 6,238.
Missouri State, who is trying to avoid its first losing season at home since 1970-71 at McDonald Arena, improved to 6-6 at JQH Arena with three games remaining in the regular season on its home court.
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