The third straight home game for Missouri State ended with a win, but the basketball Bears still have work to do before they hit the road this week.
In a Tuesday night affair, the Bears defeated former rival Cleveland State 73-53.
“It was a tough game to keep the intensity level up for 40 minutes, but we’re not near playing a good 40 minutes, anyway,” head coach Dana Ford said. “That would be an unrealistic expectation for us at this point in time.”
The Bears secured the win early, jumping out to an early 8-0 lead in the first half and never gave it up from there.
The play for MSU looked a lot better in the first half compared to previous games. Senior Keandre Cook led the way on offense for the second game in a row with 12 points in the first half. Cook finished the game one rebound short of a double-double with 19 points.
Senior Kabir Mohammed found his spot in the starting lineup, and he also fell just short of a double-double by the end of the game. The 6-foot-5 senior finished with 11 rebounds and nine points. His 11 rebounds were split almost evenly — six on offense and five on defense.
"He brings a level of physicality that we don't have right now,” Ford said. “It was good to get him out there in the starting lineup so he plays more minutes. It's good to start him and see how he's playing and then we can go back to him."
Ford went on to say that Mohammed maybe should’ve been a starter from the beginning of the season.
Missouri State saw the debut of freshman Ford Cooper Jr., who graduated high school a year early to play at the Division I level.
Cooper ended the night with just three points, making one of his four shots on the evening. Cooper got more minutes than anticipated, according to Ford. Several Bears players earned extended time the court, and nine of the 11 participants had double-digit minutes. Ford said after the game that will be an advantage for the Bears the further into the season they get.
“It was good to get some guys out there that hadn’t played a lot of minutes,” Ford said.
One concern Ford raised after the first game was the minutes of 2019 Newcomer of the Year senior forward Tulio Da Silva. In the first two games, Da Silva played in 37 minutes in the first two games at JQH Arena this season, but only played 28 minutes in the game against Cleveland State.
The Bears relied on points within the arc for most of the game, going 5-for-17 from behind it.
Regardless, Missouri State is focused on the game ahead. The Bears head to No. 21 Xavier this Friday for a matchup against sophomore Jared Ridder’s former school. Ridder did not play against Cleveland State but was available, according to Ford. It is expected the same will happen on Friday.
Xavier narrowly beat Mizzou Tuesday night 63-58 in overtime. MSU’s tip with the Musketeers is set for 7 p.m. and will be available to watch on Springfield’s local KOZL station as well as FOX Sports Midwest.