by Missouri State Athletics
Visiting Evansville knocked down a dozen 3-pointers, including a key triple by Evan Kuhlman with just over a minute to go, to hand Missouri State a 70-64 Missouri Valley Conference setback at JQH Arena on Wednesday.
Tulio Da Silva led the Bears (8-10, 2-3 MVC) with 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Keandre Cook added 13 points for the home side.
Evansville (9-9, 3-2 MVC) got a game-high 16 points from K.J. Riley and 11 more from John Hall to pace the Aces’ first road win of the campaign.
The Bears seemed to have things under control headed down the stretch, using a close-range basket by Kabir Mohammed and a trey from Ryan Kreklow – the 150th of his career — to lead 54-49 with 5:26 to play.
However, the Purple Aces scored 11 points in the span of less than two minutes, including a pair of threes from Hall and another by Devan Straub, to put the visitors up, 60-56, with just over three-and-a-half minutes remaining.
Jarred Dixon got the Bears within 60-58 on a jumper from the elbow moments later to halt the rally by Evansville. And when Cook went to the line with a chance to tie the game at the 1:39 mark, it appeared as if order was restored.
But Cook couldn’t connect on either free throw, keeping Missouri State in a two-point deficit.
The Bears guarded the Aces down to the three-second mark on the shot clock on their next possession before Evansville called a timeout. That’s when Kuhlman launched in a long three from the right wing as the shot clock expired to push UE ahead 63-58.
Cook managed four points in the final 19 seconds of the game to keep hope alive for Missouri State, but the visitors made 7-of-8 free throws in the final minute to squelch MSU’s comeback plans in a rare home loss by the bruins.
The Bears finished the night 11-of-22 at the free throw line, missing four chances at the stripe in the final two minutes of the game.
Coach Dana Ford’s team out-rebounded Evansville by a 37-33 margin and committed just eight turnovers for the game while forcing 17. The difference came at the foul line and from long range where the Bears finished just 3-of-16 (.188) from bonus distance.
Evansville was 12-of-28 (.429) from 3-point range, including a perfect 3-for-3 night by Hall. UE also finished 20-of-45 (.444) overall from the field, while connecting on 18-of-23 (.783) chances from the charity stripe.
In a tightly-contest first half, the Bears forced nine Evansville turnovers and build a nine-point lead late in the opening period. A triple by Ross Owens made it 27-18 with 6:46 left before the break.
Later, a monster dunk by Josh Webster ignited the JQH Arena crowd to give MSU a 29-22 advantage with just over two-and-a-half minutes on the clock. But the visitors rallied in the final 79 seconds, draining a pair of 3-pointers and a layup to retake the lead, 30-29, at the midway point in the contest.
After a road date with Drake on Sunday afternoon (3 p.m.) in Des Moines, the Bears return to JQH Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 23 to play defending MVC champion Loyola at 8 p.m. in a nationally-televised game on CBS Sports Network.