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Missouri State University retired a jersey Sunday in honor of former Lady Bears Coach Cheryl Burnett, who addressed the crowd at halftime. Burnett coached then Southwest Missouri State from 1987-2002
On an emotional Sunday afternoon when Missouri State retired a jersey for former head coach Cheryl Burnett, the MSU Lady Bears played perhaps their best basketball of the season, beating Illinois State 91-76 at JQH Arena.
MSU carried a 47-43 lead into halftime, and after the Redbirds got within one, 55-54, with 16:26 to play in the second half, the Lady Bears went on a 7-0 to go ahead 62-54 and never looked back.
Missouri State increased its lead to as many as 16 points in the second half.
Senior Whitney Edie had 20 points to lead five MSU players in double figures. She had a double-double, with 13 rebounds, and even led the team in assists with five.
Karly Buer had 15 points, Kenzie Williams and Tyonna Snow scored 14 apiece, and Christiana Shorter put in 12 for MSU.
Illinois State was led by Jamie Russell, who scored 23.
The Lady Bears outrebounded the Redbirds 47-39, and shot 50% from the field (33-66). MSU also hit 22 free throws out of 31 attempts and made its first 16 attempts from the charity stripe.
"Maybe our Lady Bears are back," a smiling Coach Nyla Milleson said after the game. "We were good today. Our energy was good, our effort was goodl, our communication was good. I've pretty much said all year long, the identity of this team is run and scoring the basketball. We did that today. I know we gave up 76 points, but I thought we guarded."
Milleson says her upperclassmen stepped up in a big way Sunday. "We need them to. At the end of the day, those are the kids that are going to have to make plays."
As great as the win was for her program, Milleson says there's work to be done. "As good as we were today, we're still toward the bottom of the conference, and that's the frustrating thing. But at the same time, we showed some life today that this can be a good basketball team, can be a scary basketball team when we do the things we're capable of doing."
Milleson says she and her team talked about the tribute to Cheryl Burnett. "Why so many of our players came to our university was because of the pride and tradition of this program and the people who played before them. I look over and I see Kendra Roberts and Regan Soldner, Lacey Boshe and Jaleshia Roberson sitting across and cheering their tails off for us. It was about playing for that pride and playing for that uniform today."
Buer says her team was needing a win to get its confidence back. "On this day, where all of our alumni are back, just to show the tradition isn't lost."
Shorter agrees it was a total team effort. "We can score the ball. It feels great to have a team collective win. Having five people in double figures, it was team ball. It feels good to get a win, especially at home, and especially on a great night like this."
Edie talked about her outstanding game. "My teammates are just getting me the ball and I'm open. Finishing at the blocks the main key. Just going to crash the boards, getting rebounds and getting extra possessions for my team."
On a day when a women's college basketball program with a great tradition put up a big time win, Burnett was asked if the success the Lady Bears had during her tenure can happen again. "Absolutely I think it can happen again. It is a bit more difficult due to who is getting television. Years ago, we were one of the first live ESPN games. When ESPN wanted to get a game that started at midnight and have a large crowd, it was not tied to major college football, so that's why they came to Missouri State. That and recruiting rules does make it more of a challenge."
The Lady Bears are now 11-10 on the season, and improve to 3-6 in conference play. They'll take on Bradley Friday night at JQH Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:05.
The 91 points scored by the Lady Bears are their most in a game since beating Morgan State 04-74 on December 18th, 2011 a JQH Arena.
The last time MSU hit 90+ points in a Missouri Valley Conference game was on February 25th, 2011, when the Lady Bears defeated Drake 92-82 at JQH Arena.
Before Sunday's game, Missouri State recognized its women's athletics pioneers as part of the university's Title IX 40th anniversary celebration.
The first 5,000 fans into the arena on Sunday received a commemorative Cheryl Burnett pin.
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