by Missouri State Athletics Department
Air Force (3-4) knocked down 17 3-pointers and shot 58.5 percent from the field to set back the Missouri State Bears here Wednesday, 88-69, in the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge.
A.J. Walker was 6-for-8 from long range and scored 20 points to lead five Falcon players in double figures.
The Bears (3-4) were led by Tulio Da Silva’s 22 points, while Keandre Cook scored 13, and Ryan Kreklow added 11 points.
MSU matched the Falcons early, moving ahead 10-8 on a 3-pointer by Kreklow just over three minutes into the game. But Air Force got hot from long distance and buried four threes of its own over the next five minutes to extend its lead to 26-14. The Falcons weren’t done and knocked down four more triples over the next four minutes to build their lead to 40-19 at the 6:52 mark.
However, the last six minutes of the first half belonged to the visitors. Missouri State used a 19-7 run headed into the intermission to make it a nine-point game at the midway point. A 10-point outburst by Cook down the stretch and another trey by Kreklow spearheaded the rally.
MSU finished the first half 11-of-19 (.579) from the field and 13-of-14 (.929) at the free throw line to get back in the contest.
In the second half, the Bears stormed out of the locker room with equal intensity, closing their gap to eight after back-to-back baskets by Da Silva. Moments later, Kreklow’s catch-and-shoot 3-pointer – his third of the night – at the 17:26 mark made it a 53-45 game and seemed to have Air Force on its heels.
The Falcons responded by going to their bread and butter – the long shot. A minute after Kreklow’s big bucket, Air Force extended its lead to 16 on triples by Caleb Morris and Chris Joyce and a transition layup by Joyce to make it 61-45.
Missouri State had a couple more runs left, closing its gap to 10 twice more. First, a traditional 3-point play by Cook made it 61-51 with 14:39 to go. Later, a free throw by Da Silva made it 69-59 at the 10:19 mark.
But ultimately, Air Force seemed to catch every break over the game’s final 10 minutes and used an 11-0 run to put things out of reach. During a pivotal stretch in the second half, the Falcons made 8-of-10 shots and finished the game 17-of-28 (.607) from 3-point range, tying a Missouri State opponent record for threes.
The Bears finished 23-of-48 (.479) from the field, 5-of-17 (.294) from bonus distance and 18-of-23 (.783) at the foul line with 15 turnovers.
Air Force out-rebounded the Bears, 28-23 and also turned the ball over 15 times.
The game marked the third time the teams have met in the MW-MVC Challenge, which is just eight years old. The teams played in Springfield in 2009 and played in Colorado Springs in 2016 as part of the series.
The Bears wrap up their three-game road swing at Oregon State (5-1) on Saturday at 6 p.m. (Central) in a nationally-televised game on the PAC-12 Network.