by Rick Kindhart
A pair of free throws by Josh Hall with 48.7 seconds to play helped seal a 71-69 victory for Missouri State here Friday as the Bears moved past a late-surging Saint Joseph’s team, 71-69, in the consolation round of the Charleston Classic.
Hall also had the game-ending defensive rebound on the Hawks’ final possession, corralling a missed 3-pointer from Rahmir Moore to seal the victory.
The balanced Bears (3-3) got 19 points from Gaige Prim, 18 from Keandre Cook and 9 from Tyrik Dixon. Lamont West added a game-high 9 rebounds to help MSU to a 42-30 rebounding advantage, while Cook (8) and Dixon (7) also supplied key rebounds for Dana Ford’s squad.
The game featured seven lead changes in the second half, but three minutes into the final period, Kabir Mohammed’s free throws and Cook’s trey started a 20-6 run for Missouri State that ended with a put-back by Prim nine minutes later and the Bears holding their biggest lead of the night, 58-46.
But a feverish retaliation ensued with Saint Joseph’s spending the next three minutes chipping away. The Hawks (2-4) quickly reeled off 12 unanswered points to tie the game, 58-58, then answered a pair of free throws by Prim with a triple from Ryan Daly that gave them a 61-60 advantage with 5:12 to go.
The advantage see-sawed again down the stretch with Dixon’s layup pushing Missouri State back on top, 62-61, before Daly scored up close for SJU. With 3:23 remaining, Cook dropped in his second clutch trey of the half to put MSU back up by a pair, and then Dixon increased the Bears’ lead to 67-63 a minute later with a contested layup.
Daly, who finished with a game-high 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting, simply would not go away and dropped in his third triple of the day at the two-minute mark to get the Hawks back within one. Prim returned to the line on the Bears’ next trip and made both charity shots – and finished 7-of-9 on the day from the stripe – to push MSU ahead 69-66 with 1:43 to play.
The Hawks knotted the score for the 11th time on their next possession with Taylor Funk splashing home a three from well beyond the arc. But Missouri State had the last laugh with Hall snatching a huge offensive rebound off a Cook miss and getting to the line for the game-winning free throws.
Saint Joseph’s missed its last two shots of the night with Cook reeling in a miss by Daly and Hall pulling down Moore’s miss as time expired.
For the game, Missouri State was 23-of-60 (.383) overall and 6-of-20 (.300) from bonus distance. However, the Bears were lethal at the line, converting 19-of-23 (.826) foul shots. The Bears accounted for 11 second-chance points from their 15 offensive rebounds.
Cook posted five of MSU’s season-high 11 steals and also led the squad with three assists.
Saint Joseph’s was 25-of-58 (.431) from the field and 10-of-28 (.357) from 3-point range. The Hawks also finished 9-of-11 (.818) at the stripe with 30 points in the paint.
In the first half, Missouri State went without a field goal for the final four-and-a-half minutes of the opening period but got a pair of free throws from Prim to knot the score, 36-36, at the break. The Bears had six steals and forced eight turnovers but timely 3-pointers from the Philadelphia squad kept them in it, including a timely 10-1 run by the Hawks that gave SJU a 27-22 lead with 7:32 to play in the first stanza.
The Bears will play Buffalo for fifth place in the Charleston Classic on Sunday afternoon. Tip off is at 3:30 p.m..