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ST. LOUIS – Missouri State (11-21) used 18 points from Marcus Marshall and 16 points from Anthony Downing to turn away Southern Illinois, 61-53, here Thursday (March 7) in the opening round of the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball championship.
The Bears, the No. 7 seed, advanced to play No. 2 seed Wichita State in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 6:08 p.m.
Marshall, who needed only nine shots to earn his 18 points, was part of a key 11-22 second-half scoring run that provided Missouri State with a comfortable margin with less than 10 minutes to play in the game.
Southern Illinois (14-71) got as close as 39-34 after a 3-point bucket by Anthony Beane Jr., with 12:48 showing on the clock, but Marshall and the Bears responded strongly to make it 50-36 with 9:48 left. The MSU surge started with a physical driving layup by Keith Pickens who made the shot while being fouled. Pickens’ made free throw with 12:23 left made it a 42-34 MSU advantage.
Marshall got involved when he picked off an errant Salukis pass. After passing the ball off to Downing on a fast break, Marshall received a nice pass in the corner from the MSU senior and swished a 3-pointer to put the Bears on top by 11.
After SIU missed a 3-point shot on their end, the Bears extended their lead to 14 on a reverse layup by Christian Kirk.
Beane Jr. answered with a jump shot of his own, but was subsequently called for a technical foul for taunting. Downing made 1-of-2 free throws that resulted from the technical and Marshall made two of his own just a few seconds later to give Missouri State its largest lead at 50-36 with 9:48 to play.
Downing, Marshall, Pickens, Nathan Scheer and Christian Kirk stayed on the floor for almost the entire second half. The Bears made no second-half substitutions until the game was in hand with 47 seconds to go.
Missouri State shot 48.8 percent (21-for-43) from the floor and made 20 percent (3-of-15) of their shots from 3-point land. The Salukis shot 22-for-43 from the floor and 3-of-9 from distance, but the Bears’ 16-for-22 effort from the free-throw line overmatched their opponent’s 6-of-10 ledger at the line.
The 18-point performance by Marshall puts him at 343 points for the season, just three behind Blake Ahearn’s freshman scoring record set in 2003-2004.
Downing finished the night with three rebounds and two assists to go along with his 16 points, while Christian Kirk was a solid contributor for the Bears in the post with 10 points and eight boards.
The Bears took a 32-22 lead into the halftime locker room. Downing scored the last seven points of the first half for Missouri State, who used a 20-7 run to take the double-digit advantage at the break.
After trailing by as many as five points early on, the Bears created some separation about midway through the first half. A jumper by Pickens with 7:34 left in the stanza got things started before a quick left-side jump shot by Marshall gave Missouri State the lead at 16-15.
From there, the Bears built a 25-17 lead before Downing took over with three field goals and a free throw to give MSU its halftime advantage.
The two teams went scoreless for nearly three minutes starting at the 15:14 mark in the first half, but a breakaway dunk by SIU’s Desmar Jackson with 11:41 left and a one-handed floater by Downing 18 seconds later broke the drought, making it 13-10 Salukis with 10:40 to play.
A pair of short jumpers by Kirk and Pickens helped draw Missouri State to within a point, 15-14, with 7:18 to play in the first stanza.
After Missouri State gained an early 5-2 advantage thanks to a bucket from Kirk and a 3-pointer at the top of the key from Marshall, Southern Illinois went on a 9-3 run from that point to go up 11-8 at the first media timeout.
Tickets for Friday’s Arch Madness quarterfinal matchup with Wichita State (24-7) are available at TicketMaster.com or by phone at 800-745-3000.
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