SPRINGFIELD – Missouri State senior Jarmar Gulley matched a career high with 26 points and snagged a game-high 12 rebounds to lift the Bears (13-6, 3-4 MVC) past visiting Evansville, 64-61, here Tuesday in a key Missouri Valley Conference game.
MSU overcame a halftime deficit for the fifth time this season and used the strength of a 15-4 run over the course of seven-and-a-half minutes early in the second half to turn the game around.
Evansville (9-11, 2-5) led 34-32 at the intermission behind a 52.4-percent shooting effort and led by as many as eight points late in the opening period.
The cardiac Bears scored six unanswered points in the final 78 seconds of the opening half as Gulley converted a traditional 3-point play, and Gavin Thurman dropped in a clutch trey to make it a two-point game at the break. MSU later took its first lead since 7-6 when Emmanuel Addo scored on an up-and-under move at the 17:12 mark of the second half on a pass from Ron Mvouika to make it a 39-38 contest. Evansville regained the lead briefly on a layup by D.J. Balentine, but Paul Lusk’s troops found their rhythm and use the game-breaking surge to push ahead 50-42 with 11:28 remaining.
On the ensuing possession, MSU trapped Balentine in the front court, forcing Evansville into its final timeout with 21 ticks to play. Marty Simmons’ squad drew up a shot for the MVC’s top scorer, but Balentine’s trey missed and was gathered in by Gulley who was fouled at the 14-second mark.
Gulley went to the line sitting at a perfect 7-for-7 on the night, but his only miss from the stripe came at a bad time, as Evansville grabbed the missed one-and-one front end to get another crack at it. However, MSU quickly wrapped up Duane Gibson to send him to the line. Gibson also missed his front end free throw chance to keep the score at 63-60.
Austin Ruder got a chance to put the game on ice three seconds later, but also missed, and when the Aces got a third chance in the deciding moments, MSU fouled Balentine before he had an opportunity to set up a potential tying shot. Balentine responded with a made free throw to bring UE back within 63-61, but he missed his second shot on purpose as it scraped off the bottom of the net and out of bounds.Dorrian Williams, who finished with 8 assists and just one turnover for MSU, then went to the line with 2.8 seconds to go and made one-of-two. His second shot was picked up by Simmons, but Evansville could not get off a final shot, and the Bears improved to 9-1 at home this season with the win.
Balentine was held four points below his league-leading 22.2-point scoring average with 18 tallies on the night, while Egidiju Mockevicius added 10 for Evansville which finished 19-for-44 (.432) from the field and just 4-of-13 (.308) beyond the arc.
Missouri State, which snapped a three-game losing streak, also got double figures from Christian Kirkwho went 5-for-7 from the field in a reserve role to finish with 11 points. Williams added 8 points and a career-high 6 rebounds to go with his game-high assist total, and Lusk picked up his 40th victory as Bears’ coach.
The Bears out-rebounded the Aces by a 43-28 margin and snagged 18 offensive boards – 7 by Gulley — that led to 14 second-chance points. MSU finished 24-for-63 (.381) from the field, 4-of-21 (.190) from long range and 12-of-19 (.632) at the stripe with 11 turnovers.
MSU closes out its current two-game home stand on Saturday at 7 p.m., when the Bears host rival Southern Illinois in a White Out game on FOX Sports Midwest and MVC TV Network. Tickets are available now at MissouriStateBears.com/tickets and during regular box office hours (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) at the JQH Arena box office and by phone at (417) 836-7678.