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MSU Lady Bears guard Karly Buer (14) gets set to drive against Bradley's Kelsey Budd (3) during second half action Friday night at JQH Arena
The MSU Lady Bears withstood a last minute comeback attempt by the Bradley Braves to win 91-86 Friday night at JQH Arena in Springfield.
Bradley's Shronda Butts hit a three pointer with 35 seconds left to pull the Braves within two, 88-86, but Hannah Wilkerson came up with a big steal moments later for the Lady Bears.
WIlkerson hit one of two free throw attempts to put her team up 89-86 with 15.9 seconds remaining, then Kenzie Williams blocked a shot on a three point attempt by Bradley's Brooke Bisping with eight seconds left.
After Christiana Shorter missed two free throws at the 7.7 mark, Wilkerson got the rebound and nailed two free throws to preserve the win.
Missouri State looked like it might run away with the game in the first half, going up by 16 points, 37-21, on Williams' three pointer with 6:28 remaining.
But the Braves went on an incredible 18-2 run to tie the game 39-39 on Katie Yohn's three pointer with 1:41 left in the half.
The Lady Bears grabbed the momentum going into the locker room by scoring the last nine points of the half to take a 48-39 lead at the intermission.
MSU continued the run early in the second half, going ahead 54-41 on Whitney Edie's bucket with 18:09 left in regulation, only to be folllowed by an 8-0 run by the Braves to pull within five.
A 7-0 run by the Lady Bears extended their lead to 65-53 with 13:24 to play, but in this game of runs, Bradley scored nine straight points to pull within three, 65-62, at the 10:51 mark.
Then, it was Missouri State's turn as a 12-0 run put the home team ahead 82-69 with 5:48 remaining, but the Braves hit four three pointers in a three and a half minute stretch down the stretch to set up the dramatic final minute of basketball.
Williams, a redshirt freshman, had a career high 23 points and hit six three pointers. Edie scored 20, and Shorter had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Karly Buer (13 points) and Tyonna Snow (10 points) also scored in double figures for Missouri State.
Kelsey Budd had 19 points to lead Bradley, but Yohn had a double-double with 15 points and ten rebounds. She also led the Braves with eight assists, four steals, and two blocked shots.
Williams says the three pointers felt good, but they were set up by her teammates. "My teammates were getting me the ball, and I was open," Williams said. "We had 21 assists, so that's what good team basketball is all about. We had five in doubles again tonight, so that's how we win ball games."
Shorter says her team is starting to click offensively. "I keep saying finally, our game is coming," Shorter said. "Like we always say, play Lady Bear basketball, and that's what we do best. We play team ball. Having five people in double figures, any person can be a leading scorer any night."
"We've got to score the basketball," MSU Head Coach Nyla Milleson said in her postgame press conference. "That's the identity of this team. And yes we do work on defense alot. But our game is getting up and down the floor, as is Bradley's game. We're one and two in the conference in scoring, but that's our game to run and put the ball inside, rebound and get to the free throw line."
But while Milleson says her team was solid at holding Bradley's three point shooters in check, she's not happy with another stat. "It's 36 points (by Bradley) in the paint. We can not give up easy points, and 22 of those are off of turnovers and we did not handle the press very well late."
A stat the coach is happy about is rebounding. The Lady Bears had 51 boards to Bradley's 31, including a 24-12 advantage on the offensive glass. "That's another one of our strengths," Milleson said. "We're good on the boards, really on both ends, but particularly on the offensive end. We were able to score and get to the boards and that's one of the things this team does well."
The Lady Bears improve to 12-10 overall and 4-6 in the Valley. Bradley drops to 9-12, 3-7.
MSU will wrap up a four game homestand with a game against Northern Iowa Sunday afternoon at 2:05 at JQH Arena.
The Lady Bears have scored 91 points in back to back games. The last time Missouri State had back to back 90+ point efforts was January 23rd and 25th, 1999 (105-74 victory over Drake and a 94-69 win against Bradley). They've never scored 90 or more in three consecutive contests.
Christiana Shorter, who had been a combined 10-34 from the free throw line in nine previous Valley games, connected on seven of 13 attempts from the charity stripe Friday night.
Kenzie Williams' six three pointers Friday night are the most for a Lady Bear this season, and most since Jaleshia Roberson hit seven for MSU on December 20th, 2011.
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