A slow start for the Missouri State Bears turned into a 55-37 win over the Bradley Braves. The Bears previously defeated Bradley on Jan. 12, 69-64.
“It was a big game with us because now we own any tiebreaker with Bradley,” head coach Dana Ford said. “Anytime you hold back-to-back opponents to under 40 points, you’re doing something well.”
The game started extremely slow, with both teams combining for 10 points in the first 3:40.
The Braves took the lead early, but the Bears stayed close to tie it three different times in the first 7:19. The Braves managed to pull away the first two times, but the Bears tied the score at eight and never looked back.
Missouri State jumped from the tie to a 13-point lead before Bradley’s Nate Kennell made a free throw to end the Braves’ almost nine-minute scoring drought.
The Bears ended the half with a 28-14 lead. Junior Keandre Cook led the way in the first half with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Scoring went back and forth during the beginning of the second half, but it was too late for Bradley. The Bears jumped to a 20-point lead early, and that sealed the deal.
Missouri State pulled off an 18-point win. The Bears are only the second team in Missouri Valley Conference history to hold two opponents to 37 or fewer points in two-straight games in the shot clock era. They beat Loyola by 35 on Wednesday.
The last team to do it was Illinois State during the 1985-86 season.
Cook, who missed his first three 3-point shots in the second half, still managed a double-double with 9:34 left in the game. He ended the game with 16 points, 10 rebounds and four steals.
Junior Tulio Da Silva followed Cook’s lead. He only had four points at halftime but came out in the second half and scored eight points. Da Silva ended with six rebounds.
The Bears have taken on a theme of “defend no matter what.” They lead the conference in forced turnovers.
“We’ve just fallin’ in love with ‘defend no matter what,’” senior Jarred Dixon said.
Dixon had seven points and four rebounds.
Missouri State heads to Valparaiso on Tuesday, Jan. 29, for a rematch against Valparaiso. Valparaiso is 5-2 in the MVC. The Crusaders defeated MSU 82-66 on Jan. 5. It was the Bears’ second conference game and their first loss at home.
The men’s basketball team is now .500 in Missouri Valley Conference play and 10-11 overall.