by Missouri State Athletics
Missouri State got 19 points from senior Jarred Dixon and a career-high nine rebounds from classmate Ryan Kreklow to help turn back visiting Southern Illinois, 65-59, here Wednesday, ending a nine-game winning streak by the Salukis against MSU.
The Bears (12-12, 6-5 MVC) overcame a narrow deficit in the final five minutes that started with a jumper by senior Josh Webster and continued with a 3-pointer by Keandre Cook at the four-minute mark. Dixon’s triple out of the left corner with 2:21 to go gave MSU 60-54 cushion. And when Kreklow drew a charge against SIU’s Armon Fletcher 10 seconds later, the Bears wasted no time capitalizing when Webster got into the paint and scored on a short jumper to make it 62-54.
Cook and Webster each added 12 points to Missouri State’s scoring line while Tulio Da Silva contributed 11.
SIU (12-12, 5-6 MVC) was led by Kavion Pippen’s game-high 24 points and 10 rebounds. Aaron Cook added 11 points for the visitors.
Pippen nearly brought the Salukis back from a 13-point halftime deficit, scoring five of the first six field goals of the second half to trim Missouri State’s lead to 38-35 just four-and-a-half minutes into the final stanza.
Da Silva and Webster stopped the bleeding temporarily with four straight MSU points that gave the Bears a seven-point cushion.
Over the next five minutes, five different Salukis scored as part of an 11-4 run by the visitors, and Pippen’s put-back with 8:13 to play knotted the score, 46-46.
MSU’s Cook dropped in a big 3-pointer to give the Bears the lead again and brought the JQH Arena crowd back to life with just over seven minutes to go. However, SIU’s Cook gathered in a steal and dunked it on the other end two minutes later to give the Salukis a 52-50 advantage headed into the game’s final five minutes.
“I think this game meant so much to our seniors,” said MSU head coach Dana Ford. “JD (Dixon) and Kreklow really played at a high level, especially down the stretch with the game on the line.”
Southern Illinois had reeled off three straight wins at JQH Arena and nine straight in the series before Wednesday, which was MSU’s fourth win in its last five Missouri Valley Conference games.
MSU shot 50 percent from the field in the second half and 47.7 percent (21-of-44) for the game. The Bears were 6-of-19 (.316) from 3-point range and 17-of-25 (.680) at the stripe. Ford’s squad committed just seven turnovers on the night.
Southern Illinois’ comeback efforts saw the visitors convert nearly 60 percent of its second-half shots, while the Salukis finished 26-of-53 (.491) for the game and just 2-of-8 (.250) from bonus range. SIU was also 5-of-13 (.385) at the line, but out-rebounded the home side, 31-27.
In the first half, the Bears used solid defense and that same senior leadership to gain a 36-23 halftime advantage. Dixon scored 14 points with a pair of 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes and led an 11-3 MSU charge late in the half.
After a free throw by Jared Ridder tied the game, 14-14, midway through the opening period, MSU used the next six minutes to frustrate the visitors, getting a late 3-pointer by Cook, a pair of buckets by Webster and two close-range scores by Dixon.
MSU extended its lead over the final three minutes of the half, with Dixon scoring the last five points headed into the break, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Bears a 13-point advantage.
Stephen Burks was recognized in the first half as the 1 millionth men’s basketball fan to spin the turnstiles at JQH Arena, which opened on Nov. 22, 2008. With the win, the Bears improved to 9-2 at home this season and 120-54 all-time at The Q.
The Bears, who are now tied for third place in the MVC standings, continue their home stand on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. against Illinois State (14-10, 7-4 MVC) at JQH Arena.