SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Behind Casey Garrison’s 28 points and a season-high 28 free throws, the Missouri State Lady Bears overcame a lackluster shooting performance to notch a 70-58 victory over Southern Illinois Saturday afternoon at SIU Arena. Garrison, who went 10-of-10 from the foul line, scored the first 10 Missouri State points of the second half to help the Lady Bears hold off a spirited SIU club.
With the win the Lady Bears (21-9, 12-6 MVC) secured a tie for second place in the Missouri Valley Conference's final regular-season standings following losses by Creighton and Illinois State on the last day of league play. By virtue of the Valley’s tiebreaking system, Missouri State locked up the No. 3 seed in next week’s State Farm MVC Tournament in St. Charles, Mo., where they will take on sixth-seeded Drake at 8:35 p.m., Friday (March 11) evening.
The victory for Missouri State did not come without a fight from the Salukis (2-27, 0-18 MVC), who entered the match-up on an 18-game losing streak. SIU battled back from a nine-point first-half deficit to take a four-point lead late in the opening stanza, then fought from behind to knot the score two more times in the second half.
The Lady Bears found themselves under pressure all day from the duo of Teri Oliver and Katrina Swingler, who combined to score 43 of the Salukis 58 points.
But Garrison answered the challenge, accounting for 16 of Missouri State’s first 18 points after intermission to help the Lady Bears take a 54-48 lead into the final seven minutes of play. She would go 6-of-13 from the floor and 6-of-6 from the foul line in the second half to carry the MSU offense when it needed it the most.
Christiana Shorter also played a pivotal role in crunch time, scoring six straight points for MSU after the Salukis had pulled to within four points late in the game. The sophomore knocked down a pair of free throws with 4:34 to go, then converted a layup off of a steal to stretch the Lady Bear lead to 58-50. Finally, Shorter fought off several Salukis for a pair of offensive rebounds, ultimately converting a putback with 3:43 remaining on the clock to hand MSU a 10-point advantage.
MSU would push the margin to as many as 15 points by hitting its final six free throw attempts in the final 1:03 of regulation.
The Lady Bears’ sharp-shooting at the line was crucial all afternoon, as Missouri State converted just 20-of-59 (.339) field goal attempts. MSU knocked down 16-of-20 first-half tries from the stripe to offset a .310 effort from the floor and take a four-point lead into intermission.
Missouri State used a strong start to build an early nine-point lead, getting balanced contributions from six different scorers over the game’s first five minutes. After Oliver connected on a three-point attempt just 26 seconds into the game for the first points of the afternoon, MSU went on a 9-0 scoring run to build a five-point cushion.
Shorter led the Lady Bears’ early onslaught with a pair of baskets, before Jasmine Malone and Jaleshia Roberson sank three-point field goals on back-to-back possessions to make it a 15-6 ball game with 16:04 to play in the half.
But the lead would be short lived, as Oliver teamed up with Swingler to score 24 of SIU’s next 26 points to hand the Salukis the lead with just under seven minutes left in the period.
After the Salukis claimed a 26-22 advantage, MSU would respond at the foul line, scoring 12 of its final 18 points of half at the stripe. Lacey Boshe would come off the bench to knock down 7-of-8 attempts from the line, while Garrison would go 4-of-4.
Garrison, who matched a career-high with seven steals as well, posted her second double-double in three games, pulling down a team-high 10 boards. Shorter joined Garrison in double figures with 12 points and narrowly missed a double-double of her own, grabbing nine boards on the day.
Oliver led SIU with 23 points, while Swingler totaled 20 points and seven rebounds for the Salukis, who established a new MVC record for losses in a season with their defeat.
Conversely, Missouri State will enter the conference tournament with its highest regular-season win total since the 2003-04 season.