Last week, some fans were worried about the future of Missouri State men’s basketball.
This week, those fans can sleep peacefully.
Missouri State earned its second win at home last Tuesday against former rival Cleveland State, 73-53. Nine of the 10 players who stepped on the court got themselves on the scoreboard while three contributed double-digit scores.
This was the first game of the season where the Bears fell into an offensive rhythm early on in the game. They didn’t show 40 minutes of good basketball, but neither are most Division I teams at this point in the season, according to head coach Dana Ford.
This group of guys is still learning how to work together as a unit. Missouri State only returned two starters and two bench players who saw decent minutes last season. This is a fresh team that is figuring out how to play together, and while they still have work to do, they looked a little more cleaned up than in the two previous games.
Ford has been saying that once his team buys what he’s trying to sell them, they’ll start looking like a better product.
The team said after the game that it was nice to secure another win before heading to face a Top 25 team in No. 21 Xavier.
While the Bears didn’t come away with a win Ohio, they left a better team.
The 59-56 loss to the Musketeers was the type of game fans couldn’t look away from. Missouri State fell behind 10-0 at the beginning of the game but worked its way back before heading into the locker room at the half, down 32-30.
The Bears didn’t trail by more than nine for the remainder of the game, bringing the score within one point twice and tying it up twice. Missouri State played catch up the entire second half, unable to get over the hump and take the lead.
This wasn’t because of their shooting, though. The Bears actually shot better than the Musketeers in all three scoring categories. Missouri State shot themselves in the foot allowing Xavier to score 25 points off 22 turnovers, a season high for the maroon.
Fans thought the Bears were about to take their first lead when junior Gaige Prim slammed the glass to tie the game up at 56-all with 1:30 to play. On the next play, senior Keandre Cook got a steal, allowing senior Lamont West to shoot one from the corner that came up short.
As the ball was leaving West’s fingertips, he fell to the ground after what looked to be contact with the defender. A whistle was blown and it looked like the Bears were going to get three attempts at the line with less than a minute to go in a tie game.
Instead, the foul was on Cook — a Class B flopping technical. The new rule gave Xavier possession after they made a free throw to break the tie. With 11.6 seconds left in regulation, Xavier drove the lane on a second-chance shot and scored the bucket.
“I guess you can’t fall now,” Ford said with Art Hains in the postgame show. “Sometimes guys fall; sometimes guys flop. I guess it will take some games to get used to.”
Missouri State redshirt junior Tyrik Dixon chucked the ball up from 3 in desperation with four seconds to go, but it was no good.
Despite the loss, the Bears looked like the team everyone thought they would be. Missouri State needed to come out, fight and show it is capable of handling its strenuous nonconference schedule.
They did just that.
“I think we got better today,” Ford said with Hains. “Getting Gaige Prim in the lineup makes us better. You can tell.”
Prim had eight points in 13 minutes of action. Prim got into foul trouble in the second half, limiting his time on the court. The forward hadn’t played in any game this season up until Friday for what Ford called precautionary measures.
One of Ford’s concerns from the season’s get-go was senior Tulio Da Silva’s minutes, as he had 37 in the first game.
Ford said he wants to limit that this year.
Prim in the lineup is expected to help alleviate the pressure and double-teaming Da Silva could face.
Ford said the goal for this portion of the schedule is to learn from wins and losses, progressing into a championship-caliber team come January.
The Bears continue on their road stretch at the Charleston Classic in South Carolina. They’ll take on Miami University on Nov. 21 at 10:30 a.m.