The Southern Illinois Salukis have handed the Missouri State Bears their second straight Missouri Valley Conference defeat, beating the Bears 75-67 Saturday afternoon at JQH Arena.
The Salukis took a 33-25 lead at halftime, but the Bears used a 12-2 run to pull within one, 42-41, with 11:14 left in regulation.
But despite staying within two of the lead with seven and a half minutes left, the Bears couldn't handle the Salukis the rest of the way as Sean Lloyd hit a three pointer at the 7:29 mark to put Southern Illinois up 53-48.
Obediah Church hit a shot underneath, was fouled, and banked home a free throw with 6:39 remaining to make it a 55-51 game, but the Salukis scored six of the next seven points.
Austin Ruder from Nixa got a three pointer for the Bears with 4:05 remaining, but it was too little, too late as Rudy Stradnieks came off the bench and buried a three with 2:20 on the clock, putting the Salukis back up by eight, 64-56.
Southern Illinois then took its largest lead of the afternoon (12 points) with just 1:42 left on a layup by Mike Rodriguez, who led his team in scoring with 22 points.
SIU converted on seven of ten free throw attempts in the final 67 seconds to seal the win.
Dequon Miller scored 15 points and Jarred Dixon also put in 15 to lead MSU.
Alize Johnson picked up a double-double for Missouri State, with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Neither team was able to shoot 50% from the floor and both the Bears and Salukis had 31 rebounds, but the difference appeared to come at the free throw line, where the home team hit only 10 of 18 attempts, while Southern Illinois connected on 20 of 24 tries.
"Disappointed with our guys that we didn't have that sense of urgency," Bears Coach Paul Lusk said to open his postgame press conference. "All the credit to Southern, they just outplayed us in every area. They came to fight and we came to play. You have to come to fight."
It was also a game marked by distractions, as before the tip, Lusk announced that junior guard Ronnie Rousseau III will miss additional time away from the team due to personal reasons. "Our concern is him being better," Lusk said." We miss him being here just because we love coaching him. He's so coachable."
And if Bears fans were wondering why senior guard Miller didn't start the game, it's because he was late for the team shoot-around. "I love hat kid, but that can't happen," Lusk said of his point guard's tardiness.
Missouri State drops to 11-6 on the season, and evens its Valley record at 2-2.
The Salukis improve to 10-7 overall and 3-1 in league play.
The Bears will host the Evansville Aces Wednesday night in a 7:02 p.m. tipoff at JQH Arena.
Former Bears Coach Barry Hinson has coached the Salukis to a win in two straight appearances in Springfield. MSU had won 11 of the previous 16 meetings between the teams.
The Bears hadn't lost consecutive games since February 18th and 21st, 2016, when they fell to Wichita State on the road and Loyola-Chicago at home.
Obediah Church had five blocked shots for MSU in Saturday's contest. He has at least one block in 24 straight games dating back to last season.
Saturday's announced attendance at JQH Arena was 5,892. It's only the second time the Bears have passed the 5,000 mark in ten home dates this season.