The Missouri State Lady Bears continued their fight for respect and proved why they are perhaps the mid-major team to beat in the country.
Missouri State, ranked No. 22 in the USA Today Coaches Poll last week, went to South Dakota and handed the Coyotes only their fourth loss at home since 2016 on Monday night. The Lady Bears defeated South Dakota 74-66.
Head coach Amaka-Agugua-Hamilton said she told her team before the game they were going to win the game.
“We came in here laser-focused from shootaround to game time,” Mox said in her postgame radio interview. “We had one common goal, and we knew we were going to take this game. I told this team since yesterday we were going to give them their fourth loss in this building.”
The Coyotes are the No. 1 ranked mid-major team in the country, according to College Insider. South Dakota also received the 26th most votes in the AP Poll on Monday while Missouri State was 29th.
The Lady Bears are now 6-1 on the season with four of those victories on the road.
And they got off to a fast start early. Over the first four minutes, Missouri State knocked down three triples with senior Alexa Willard hitting a pair and sophomore Mya Bhinhar adding the third 3-pointer.
Both teams were deadlocked at 11 after the game’s first stoppage.
The Lady Bears ended the first quarter on a 9-2 run capped by a 3-pointer from senior Brice Calip, who hit a 3 at the buzzer. Missouri State led 22-13 after one.
That lead increased to 29-18 by the 4:27 mark in the second quarter, but the Coyotes ripped off a 9-2 run to end the half within four.
South Dakota junior Monica Arens kept the Coyotes within striking distance, finishing with a game-high 14 points in the first half.
Despite shooting 3-for-14 from the field in the second quarter, Missouri State showcased its depth with eight players scoring in the opening half.
South Dakota cut the margin to two points out of the break. The Lady Bears responded by stretching the lead back up to 43-35 halfway through the third quarter.
After being held to nine points in the second quarter, Missouri State scored 22 points in the third. The Lady Bears made a living at the foul line, making 12-of-16 shots to build a 53-43 lead going into the final frame.
Willard scored 10 of her 21 points in the quarter, but she didn’t slow down in the fourth quarter.
She connected with her fifth 3-pointer at 7:59 mark in the fourth, giving Missouri State a 13-point lead — the team’s biggest point to that point.
But the Coyotes didn’t quit.
Down 15 with seven minutes left, South Dakota hit the Lady Bears with a quick 8-0 run to drop the lead down to 58-51.
For every Coyote basket, Missouri State had an answer the rest of the way for the win.
“We wanted to play downhill in this game,” Mox said on the radio. “I thought in the Santa Clara game we settled a lot. We wanted to put pressure on them. We didn’t think they could guard us at any position. Basically, what we needed to do was play defense.
“We came out and did it. South Dakota can really fill it up (from 3). This was one of our best defensive games all season.”
Willard led all scorers, but finished the game with a career-high five 3-pointers. Sophomore Jasmine Franklin posted her third double-double of the season with a dozen points and rebounds while Calip added 12 points.
“I’m just really proud of this team coming in here and getting a win on the road,” Mox said. “I think it just shows our commitment to what we’re trying to do as far as game plan and our ultimate goal.”
The Lady Bears return home for a 2 p.m. game Sunday at JQH Arena against Kansas City.