The Indiana State Sycamores blew a 15 point lead in the first half, only to come back and win over the Missouri State Bears 78-68 Saturday afternoon at JQH Arena.
It’s the third straight loss for the Bears, who drop to 10-13 overall and 4-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Sycamores drained eight three pointers in the contest, while the Bears hit just four.
Tyreke Key scored 27 points and hit 10 of 11 attempts from the free throw line to lead Indiana State (13-8, 6-4).
Jordan Barnes added 15 points for the Sycamores.
Gaige Prim scored 23 points for the Bears in a losing effort.
MSU jumped out to an early 7-4 lead, highlighted by Ja’Monta Black’s three pointer, but a trey by Barnes tied the score 9-9 with 15:20 left in the first half.
The Sycamores took the lead a moment later when Bronson Kessinger hit a shot underneath the bucket, making it 11-9.
That started an 11-0 Indiana State run.
The Sycamores got two three pointers within a two minute span from Cooper Neese to go up 25-13 with 8:18 left in the half.
When Key drained a three pointer at the 7:21 mark, the Sycamores had doubled up on the Bears, 30-15.
But late in the first half, Bears Coach Dana Ford, unhappy with the effort by several of his players, put senior Ross Owens into the game.
Owens hit a three pointer with 34 seconds left before intermission to cut the lead to nine, 46-37, then got fouled with one second left and hit a free throw to make it a 46-38 game at the half.
Owens was on the court to start the second half as well as the Bears continued to charge back.
Two minutes into the frame, Tulio Da Silva hit a shot, got fouled, and drained a free throw to make it a seven point game.
Josh Hall then got a bucket in the paint, and Silva put one in underneath to pull his team within three, 48-45.
Black hit a three pointer at the 14:43 mark that made it a two point game, and Hall’s layup with 13:32 left knotted the contest 50-50.
The Bears grabbed their first lead since early in the first half when Silva hit a shot in the paint with 12:50 left in regulation, but the lead went back and forth three more times in the next two minutes.
Prim tied the contest 57-57 with 9:37 left when he converted a three point play from the free throw line.
But every time the Bears seemed to have momentum, Indiana State hit a big three pointer, which is what Key did with 9:27 left, putting his team back in front 60-57.
Barnes made ISU’s final trey of the game at the 6:29 mark, making the score 63-59.
Missouri State would get no closer than three the rest of the way as Key and Christian Williams were automatic from the foul line down the stretch, going a combined 11-12 in the final three and a half minutes.
Indiana State shot 54% from the field (27-50) and 62% from beyond the arc (8-13).
Missouri State hit 42% from the floor and was 4-14 from three point range.
The Sycamores out-rebounded the Bears 32-28, and hit 16 of 19 free throw attempts.
Ford addressed the media after the game:
Ford, visibly upset, had no excuses for his team’s play. “As a player, it’s got to mean something to you, and that’s what I don’t like.”
He says that’s why Owens was on the court for 26 minutes. “This ain’t rocket science that we’re doing here. Get a group of guys where it means something to and you play them. And heck yeah, it means something to Ross. It means something to him to play for Missouri State.”
Ford says it’s not a new problem. “All year….I just don’t throw people under the bus. I don’t do that, because they’re kids. But I’ve got no other excuses today. It don’t mean nothing. And if it does mean something, it’s like tenth on the list and it should be first on the list.”
Missouri State will host Illinois State Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at JQH Arena.
The Sycamores snapped a seven game losing streak against the Bears. Missouri State came into the contest with a 31-5 all time record against ISU in games played in Springfield.
Ford drops to 26-29 in his second season with the Bears.
Saturday’s announced attendance at The Q was 4,284.