The Missouri State Lady Bears get a career high 29 points from Alexa Willard and pull away in the final quarter, beating the Bradley Braves 82-60 Sunday afternoon at JQH Arena in Springfield.
The win moves the Lady Bears (15-8, 11-1) into a first place tie with Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Braves jumped out to a 14-6 lead early, but the Lady Bears pulled within five, 16-11 at the end of the first quarter.
The two teams were tied 27-27 at halftime.
Missouri State went up 53-47 after three quarters, then got a three pointer from Brice Calip less than a minute into the final period to extend the lead to 56-47.
Bradley (17-7, 7-6) got the lead down to five, 57-52, when Tatum Koenig hit a three pointer with 7:58 left in the game, but after Willard got a bucket, freshman Sydney Wilson drained a three pointer with 6:41 remaining to give MSU its first double-digit lead, 62-52.
Those plays started a 15-1 run that saw the Lady Bears pull away, getting four more buckets from Willard, including a trey.
Willard’s 29 points came on 13-18 shooting, including three of four from the three point line.
No other Missouri State players scored in double figures, but Calip and Emily Gartner finished with nine points each.
Lasha Petree led three Braves players in double figures with 13 points.
The Lady Bears, who were held without a three pointer in Friday night’s 60-56 loss to Illinois State, went 6-12 from beyond the arc Sunday.
They also set a JQH Arena record for scoring percentage in a half by going 24-33 from the field in the second half, for a .727 mark.
“I’m real happy that we bounced back from Friday night’s performance,” Lady Bears Coach Kellie Harper said. “We were able to get a really tough win against a good Bradley team. Proud of our team and it was fun to see them kind of find some rhythm there in the second half and really enjoy playing.”
Harper says after a rough outing Friday, she believes her team was pressing too much early in Sunday’s contest. “We talked to the team. The message was we haven’t forgotten how to play basketball. We still can make shots. We can defend. Just because you lose one game doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten how to play. Hopefully this will really settle things down.”
Missouri State will play at Valparaiso Friday night, with the tipoff set for 7:00 p.m.
The Lady Bears are now 26-4 in league play over the last two seasons.
MSU has won the rebounding battle 20 times in 23 games this season, out-rebounding the Braves 36-31 in Sunday’s contest.
The Lady Bears collected nine steals off 22 Bradley turnovers.
MSU shot only 47% from the free throw line Sunday (8-17).
Missouri State did not provide an attendance for Sunday’s game.