by Ben Adamson
their first game as a top-25 team in more than 15 years, the
Missouri State Lady Bears needed a big second half to dispatch visiting
Santa Clara Friday evening, out-scoring the Broncos 45-34 over the
final 20 minutes for a 71-64 win at JQH Arena.
After committing 11 first-half turnovers, the Lady Bears (5-1) had only three miscues and shot all 22 of their free throws after intermission to pull away from SCU (3-2) behind a career-high 20 points from Emily Gartner and a season-high nine points on three 3-pointers from senior Shameka Ealy off the bench.
An 11-2 Santa Clara run on either side of halftime gave the visitors a 34-28 lead, and the third quarter featured six ties and seven lead changes, the last on an Ealy trey in the waning seconds for a 51-50 advantage.
After the Broncos scored to begin the fourth quarter, the Lady Bears scored the next five points to take the lead for good, pushing the lead to six on a Jasmine Franklin putback with 5:45 left, and again on another Ealy triple with 4:34 remaining for 63-57.
The teams traded baskets to 65-59 on Gartner’s 20th point with 2:53 to go, and the Lady Bears went 6-of-8 at the line down the stretch to put the game away.
Missouri State scored on its first four possessions to lead 8-2 and started 6-for-9 from the field on the way to a 42.4 percent shooting night, though MSU’s 4-for-14 effort in the second quarter helped the Broncos take a 30-26 halftime lead.
Franklin had career highs of four blocks and four assists to go with nine points, nine boards and three steals, and the Lady Bears finished with a 40-29 margin on the glass. Alexa Willard scored 13 for MSU, Brice Calip had four assists, and Mya Bhinhar had a career-high six rebounds. The game had 12 ties and 10 lead changes in all.
The Lady Bears hit the road against for a 7 p.m. Monday contest at a solid South Dakota (5-0) club that is receiving votes in both major polls.