The Missouri State Bears have lost another close game at home, falling to the Bradley Braves 82-78 Wednesday night at JQH Arena in Springfield.
The loss drops the Bears (17-13, 7-10) into a sixth place tie with Indiana State in the Missouri Valley Conference with one game to play.
It also assures the team picked first in the Valley's preseason poll will finish with a losing conference record.
The Bears hold the tiebreaker over the Sycamores, and could wrap up the six seed and avoid a play-in game in the Valley Tournament with a win on Saturday at Northern Iowa.
"I finally brought that (play-in game) up," Bears Coach Paul Lusk said in his postgame press conference. "I don't know where it's at. We haven't talked about any of that, but the reality is it doesn't matter. We've got to try winning a game. We're doing enough good things, we've just got to finish."
MSU jumped out to a 41-38 lead at the half, extending its advantage to eight points when Jarred Dixon hit a jumper with 9:42 left in regulation, making it a 61-53 game.
But Bradley went on a 12-0 run to take a 65-61 lead with 7:34 remaining.
The lead changed hands five more times before the Braves' Nate Kennell drained two free throws with 50 seconds left in regulation to put his team up 76-75.
After a turnover on MSU's Obediah Church with 35 seconds to go, Bradley's Darrell Brown sank two shots from the foul line to extend the Braves' lead to 78-75.
Missouri State had a chance to tie the game with a three, but Jarrid Rhodes' attempt at a trey was an air ball, and Brown made two more free throws with 15 seconds left to extend the lead to 80-75.
Rhodes connected for a three with just seven seconds left to get the Bears back within two, but after the Braves got the ball in with 5.6 seconds on the clock, MSU's attempt to foul Brown took four seconds for the whistle to blow.
Brown sealed the win by connecting on both free throw attempts with 1.4 seconds remaining.
Dixon finished with 24 points and hit six three pointers to lead the Bears, while senior Rhodes scored 20.
Alize Johnson was held to six points, while grabbing 11 rebounds as the Bears out-rebounded the Braves 34-32.
Four players scored in double figures to lead the Braves (19-11, 9-8), with Kennell finishing with a team high 20 points.
The Bears, who blew a game last week against Drake by not making free throws down the stretch, went 9-9 from the line Wednesday, but Bradley got to the line more, making 25 of 31 attempts.
MSU hit 13 three pointers, with nine of them coming in the first half.
"It's hard," Lusk said of his team's morale after so many tough losses. "They're down, and obviously it was Senior Night, and we had some guys struggle, but you've got to keep coming. It's life. It's basketball. We know where we're at. We know what's at stake now, in everything, in all areas. We're certainly not going to lay down. We've got to try getting it right."
Missouri State wraps up the regular season with a 1:00 p.m. matchup Saturday at Northern Iowa before opening play in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament the following week in St. Louis.
Missouri State honored its seniors prior to Wednesday's game (Johnson, Rhodes, Ronnie Rousseau III, J.T. Miller, and Tanveer Bhullar).
The Bears have lost for the second straight year on Senior Night, dropping their home finale record in the Division One era to 31-5. Three of those losses have come during Lusk's tenure.
Johnson entered the week ranked third nationally in rebounds.
Wednesday's announced attendance at JQH Arena was 4,054.