It wasn’t their prettiest victory of the season, but as winning teams do, No. 18 Missouri State Lady Bears found a way to win despite not being at their best on Wednesday night.
In a physical battle, the Lady Bears out-muscled Wichita State to prevail 68-55 against their former conference rival. Missouri State is now 8-1 overall on the season.
“That was like a football game for a little bit,” head coach Amaka “Mox” Agugua-Hamilton said. “Super physical. In the first half, I didn’t like our intensity or physicality. Wichita State punched us in the mouth and we didn’t respond until (the end) of the first half.
“In the second half, we were way more physical and we played faster. We started hitting shots and making layups. I’m proud of the way we turned it around.”
It was a slow start both ways to begin the night. The Lady Bears jumped out to a 9-6 lead before the first media timeout at 4:32 mark in the first quarter.
Wichita State had five turnovers during that time frame. Missouri State shot 44% with four different players scoring early.
The Lady Bears ended the first period in what might have been its worst quarter so far this season, turning the ball over seven times. Despite the careless basketball, Missouri State hung around tied 14-14 going into the second quarter.
Turnovers continued to be an issue, though.
The Lady Bears turned it over twice to open the period, and the Shockers took an 18-14 lead. Missouri State finished the quarter on a 9-0 run to lead 29-25 at halftime.
In the first half, junior Brice Calip and sophomore Jasmine Franklin paced the way offensively with seven points apiece.
“We came out nonchalant and lackadaisical,” Franklin said.
Tensions were running high to start the second half. Franklin and Wichita State senior Raven Prince received a double-technical after exchanging words.
Missouri State rattled off four points to give them its biggest lead of the night at 33-27. Sophomore Mya Bhinhar drove inside and dished it to an open junior Emily Gartner for the easy layup.
Senior Alexa Willard, who had been quiet in the first half, knocked down a big 3-pointer to put the Lady Bears up 38-31 with six minutes left in the third.
A physical third quarter ended with the game still close. Missouri State hit just one of their last seven shots as the Shockers were getting easy looks inside.
The Lady Bears ended the period on a 4-0 run behind four free throws from junior Elle Ruffridge, taking a 45-40 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Franklin felt the on-court dispute with Prince helped wake up the Lady Bears.
“They were bullying us in the first quarter,” Franklin said. “Mox got into us in the second quarter and then that dispute happened. It fired us up. It woke up the dawg in all of us.”
MSU extended that to an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter behind eight free throws and a 3-pointer from sophomore Sydney Wilson. That put Missouri State up 12 with less than eight minutes left.
The Lady Bears’ lead grew to 60-42 after that run increased to 19-2, forcing Wichita State to call a timeout at 4:48 mark as Missouri State pulled away for the victory.
Franklin filled up the box score. She posted her fourth double-double of the season, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Franklin also shot a perfect 4-for-4 shooting and had a career-high four blocks.
Franklin is averaging nearly a double-double, scoring 11.4 points per game while grabbing 9.2 boards over nine games this season.
“Jas was aggressive (tonight),” Mox said. “The words I said to her in the pregame talk is, ‘We need you to play above the rim.’ That’s what she does. Some of those rebounds she is skiing in their. It’s fun to watch. Our team gets super energized when she plays like that.
“Jas is long and athletic. She can get deflections. She can get rebounds. She can run the floor and get easy baskets. She can make post moves. There is so much she can do to impact the game. She really brought a spark to our team tonight.”
Missouri State welcomes Mizzou to JQH Arena at 3 p.m. on Dec. 15 for an in-state showdown.
It’s safe to say the Lady Bears are ready to avenge its 65-61 loss against the Tigers on Nov. 13 of last year.
“We want to represent (Missouri State) and say, ‘This is our state,’'' Franklin said. “Everyone doesn’t really try to acknowledge us. We were slept on the whole preseason and now people are starting to see it."