The Missouri State Lady Bears hopes of hosting the NCAA Tournament games at JQH Arena likely came to an end on Thursday night.
The Lady Bears (23-4, 13-2) were upset by Illinois State (16-10, 8-7) in a 78-66 defeat in Normal, Illinois.
“(This loss) is very disappointing because I felt like we worked so hard to reach bigger goals,” head coach Amaka “Mox” Agugua-Hamilton said. “To come out the way we did, it was like it didn’t mean anything to us.
“We still have a lot of goals that we can reach. Hosting is not going to be one of them. That’s the thing that makes me so upset because we’re playing for something so big. I just feel like when you’re playing for the things we’re playing for, then you have to act like a champion every second.”
Missouri State is still in line to make the NCAA Tournament despite the upset. However, the Lady Bears will need to win two of their last three games to win the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title — or Drake to lose two of its last three games.
Another scenario would be a Drake loss and Missouri State win.
To open the game, Missouri State jumped out to an early 19-12 lead with three minutes left in the first quarter following a 10-2 run in which junior Brice Calip scored seven of her 20 total points.
The Lady Bears went cold after that, getting out-scored 25-5 for the remainder of the first half with a 12-3 foul differential and 17-4 free-throw attempt edge to the Redbirds exacerbating the issue to a 37-24 score.
Missouri State emerged from the locker room and erased all but one point of the deficit by the 5:25 mark after Calip’s traditional 3-point play made it 41-40.
The Lady Bears pulled within a point twice before ending the third period down 48-45. The Redbirds hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to cap a 10-2 run and lead 56-47 at the 7:35 mark.
Missouri State pulled to 62-57 with 3:46 left, but got no closer.
The Lady Bears shot 35% from the field in the game and allowed 56% shooting from Illinois State. The Redbirds became the third team all season to out-rebound the Lady Bears, 35-32.
Sophomores Sydney Wilson and Jasmine Franklin helped lead the way offensively for the team with 13 points each.
Missouri State will stay on the road in Illinois to play Bradley at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The Lady Bears then host Valparaiso on March 5 and Loyola on March 7 to conclude the 2020 regular season.