Bears Win Overtime Thriller

by Missouri State Athletics

Missouri State junior Keandre Cook’s two free throws with 2.3 seconds left in overtime lifted the Bears past Valparaiso, 55-54, here Tuesday.

Cook led all players with 17 points for MSU (11-11, 5-4 MVC), while Jared Ridder added 13, and Josh Webster scored 12.

The home standing Crusaders (12-10, 5-4 MVC) were led by Javon Freeman with 12 and Bakari Evelyn with 11 points.

Cook scored Missouri State’s last four points in overtime to overcome a three-point deficit in the final two minutes of the extra period.

With a one-point lead on its final possession, Valparaiso ran the shot clock out for a violation, turning the ball back to the Bears with 12.7 seconds to go.

At the end of regulation, Cook penetrated deep into the Valpo defense, but could not get to the rim. After Daniel Sackey’s shot off the glass tied it for the Crusaders moments earlier, 49-49.

After being tied at the half, Missouri State opened its biggest lead of the night less than five minutes into the second period when Ridder dropped in his third 3-pointer of the game to push the visitors ahead 34-29.

Valparaiso answered with seven straight points to lead by two, but at the 11:33 mark, Ridder dropped in another triple, then made it a four-point play with the ensuing free throw to put the visitors back on top, 38-36.

The home side rallied with a 7-3 run of its own over the game’s next four-and-a-half minutes to lead 43-41 with Sackey scoring twice in the Crusader outburst.

But Cook retaliated for MSU with a 3-pointer from the right wing to give Missouri State a 44-43 advantage with 5:17 to go.

Neither team scored again until Jaume Sorolla hit a left-handed hook shot at the three-minute mark to put the home side up 45-44, and Deion Lavender added a pair of free throws to give the Crusaders a three-point advantage.

But once again, Cook had the answer, knocking down a contested triple at the 1:11 mark to knot the score, 47-47.

Ryan Kreklow gave Missouri State a lead briefly with a pair clutch foul shots with 35 seconds to go, but Valparaiso tied it 15 seconds later with on the late-game bucket by Sackey.

In an otherwise lackluster first half, Missouri State went on a 9-2 run over the last three minutes of the opening period to tie the game, 25-25, at the intermission. 

Neither team led by more than three until Valparaiso used a 9-0 outburst to go from down 16-14 to a 23-16 lead over a three-minute span. Treys by Mileek McMillan and Bakari Evelyn sandwiched a traditional 3-point play by Javon Freeman to put the home side up by seven with 3:30 left before the break.

But Missouri State rallied late, getting four points from Jarred Dixon, a 3-pointer by Jared Ridder and a layup at the rim by Josh Webster at the horn down the stretch to even things up.

For the game, Missouri State shot 30.9 percent (17-of-55) from the field and 7-of-17 (.412) from long range. The Bears were out-rebounded 37-35, but converted 14-of-16 (.875) at the foul line.

Valpo made 38.8 (19-of-49) from the field, 4-of-12 (.333) from long range and 12-of-20 (.600) at the stripe.

The Bears wrap their two-game league road swing Saturday at UNI with a 7 p.m. tipoff from McLeod Center in Cedar Falls. Missouri State returns to JQH Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 6 to battle rival Southern Illinois in a regionally-televised showdown.

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