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The MSU Lady Bears got a big shot from Karly Buer with 41 seconds left in regulation and held on to beat Evansville 66-63 Saturday night at JQH Arena in Springfield.
Buer got the rebound from a missed shot by Kenzie Williams, and laid it off the glass and in as the shot clock wound down to put the Lady Bears ahead 64-61.
"I thought Karly's putback might have been the play of the game," MSU Head Coach Nyla Milleson said. "Karly's whereabouts to just go right back up with it, because we talk a lot about late in the game, if you're up, to pull it back and she just rose right back up and put it in."
"Shot clock was going down" Buer said. "Kenzie drove. It was a good look. I don't know, I just went and got the ball."
After Meagan Collins missed a shot for the Purple Aces with 30 seconds left, Buer sank two free throws to put MSU up 66-61.
Samantha Heck hit a shot for Evansville with 2.9 seconds on the clock to make it 66-63 before the Lady Bears tried a play that nearly cost them dearly.
Whitney Edie threw a line drive pass downcourt that appeared to be out of the reach of Tyonna Snow and headed out of bounds. But Snow managed to touch the basketball right before it went out of play, forcing Evansville to inbound the ball underneath their own basket. If Snow hadn't got a hand on it, the Aces would have had the ball under MSU's bucket with a chance to tie it with a three pointer.
Milleson says throwing the long ball is a play that was discussed as a last resort in that situation. "But we also talked about making sure we throw it soft....soft Edie and Ty can get a hand on it. But she bulleted it so fast it's a good thing that Ty even recognized it. We haven't had very many breaks all year long, so we'll take that one break that Ty was able to get a hand on it."
Edie had a smile when talking about her line drive pass. "I threw it down there hoping she was going to touch it. I probably should have threw a little shorter. I didn't know I was that strong."
The Aces had a chance to tie the game with a three, but had the length of the court to go. They got the ball in, but came up way short on a half court heave by Kat Taylor at the buzzer as the Lady Bears survived.
Williams had 17 points to lead four Lady Bears in double figures. Buer put in 15 points, while Edie had 14 and Snow scored ten points. Heck's 17 points were tops for Evansville.
At one point in the first half, it looked as if the home team might cruise to a win. The Lady Bears used a 20-2 run to go ahead by 15 points, 28-13 with 6:33 left. After two free throws from Evansville, Bry Snow drained a three pointer to give MSU a 31-15 advantage with 4:40 to play.
But the Aces closed the half with a 16-2 run of their own to pull within two, 33-31, at the intermission.
Evansville came out hot to start the second half, going ahead 36-33 before MSU scored the next eight points to pull ahead 41-36.
There were four more lead changes, with the Aces last time in front happening with 5:27 left when Chelsea Falkenstein it a three pointer to put her team ahead 54-53.
Edie followed with a bucket for MSU to give the Lady Bears a 55-54 advantage with 5:12 to play and even extended the lead to six points, 60-54 heading into the final three and a half minutes.
Laura Friday's three pointer for the Aces tied the game 60-60 with 1:37 left in regulation before Edie gave MSU a lead it wouldn't relinquish by hitting a shot with 1:27 to play that made it 62-60, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
"Better to win ugly than lose pretty?" Milleson said in her postgame press conference. "This team's going to turn me old, but I'm really proud of a lot of things we're doing. Giving up a 16 point lead really quick. We're due for a game to put the ball in the hole at a better rate, but I'm going to to back to what I said Thursday night. Our intangibles, our togetherness, our effort, our energy are just really, really good night now."
The Lady Bears improve to 14-13 overall, 6-9 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Evansville drops to 8-17, 6-8.
Missouri State, who pulled within a half game of sixth place in the Valley race, is trying to avoid a play-in game at next month's Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Charles. The top six finishers are automatically in the quarterfinals.
MSU will play at Indiana State Friday night. Tipoff is 6:05.
The Lady Bears lead the nation in free throw attempts with 697. North Carolina is second with 685 attempts.
Missouri State was averaging 2,553 fans per game at home going into Saturday night's game, where the announced attendance at JQH Arena was 2,808. Thursday night, only 808 fans were in attendance on a night with icy roads around the Ozarks.
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