It was another tale of two halves for the Missouri State men’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon.
There was little to no energy inside JQH Arena to start the first half. Fans mumbled amongst themselves in the stands while the Bears went through the motions on the court.
The teams battled for a lead early, with several lead changes in the first few minutes, but Indiana State quickly started to pull away with consistent makes. The Bears went over four minutes without scoring until first-half star Gaige Prim put up a jumper with 8:02 left in the first to slow the bleeding of the Sycamores’ lead.
There still wasn’t much spark for the Bears though, until head coach Dana Ford put in senior Ross Owens with 7:45 left in the first. Owens only took one shot from the field in the first half, but it was deep from the corner. All of JQH erupted, and the Bears were off to the races to end the half.
“When coach calls my name, I gotta be ready, and I never know when it’s going to be, but I’ve just got to be ready,” Owens said after the game.
Before Owens entered, the Bears trailed by 12. When the teams headed to the locker room, they trailed by eight.
Owens stayed in to start and finish the second half without a break. He and redshirt junior Josh Hall took over for senior Keandre Cook and freshman Isiaih Mosley to start the second half. Owens averaged 3.7 minutes going into Saturday’s game. His 26 minutes is a career high.
To him, though, the minutes weren’t what mattered. He said he just wanted to find a way to light a fire under his teammates.
“Coming and bringing the energy — from the start there was no energy defensively or offensively, and I just came in and tried to bring that, and got the crowd going a little bit,” Owens said.
That was all Ford was looking for.
“Looked like it meant something to him, didn’t it?” Ford said. “It’s not rocket science what we’re doing here. Get a group of guys where it means something to them, and you play them. Heck yeah, it means something to Ross — it means something to him to play for Missouri State.”
Ford said from the beginning of the season that he needs a roster of guys that buy into Missouri State and the program. That was only Owens and Prim in Saturday’s game, according to Ford.
Fan favorites Keandre Cook and freshman Isiaih Mosley had limited time on the court compared to previous games. As a senior, Cook has averaged 32.9 minutes a game — he played 22 on Saturday. Mosley has averaged the most minutes per game of any Bears this season with 33.6, but he only played 12 against Indiana State.
“You’ve gotta have five guys out there at all times that it means something to,” Ford said. “It’s just simple — I’ve got to do a better job of getting it to mean something to the players that play here.”
Ford has about four days to find a starting five where the game matters. The Bears play Illinois State at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 5. The Redbirds are 7-14 this season and have won two Missouri Valley Conference games.