MSU Lady Bears Win Thriller Over Arkansas-Little Rock 72-68 At JQH Arena
Missouri State's Desiree Phillips defends UALR's Taylor Ford during first half action in the Lady Bears home opener Wednesday night at JQH Arena.
After surviving her first win at the helm of the Missouri State Lady Bears, Coach Kellie Harper's face lit up as she described her team's roller coaster 72-68 victory over Arkansas-Little Rock Wednesday night at JQH Arena.
"I'm excited," Harper said with a smile. "That's a big win for our team. That's a good basketball team that we played and they're going to win a lot of games this year."
Bry Snow's layup with 27 seconds left in regulation broke a 67-67 tie as MSU thrilled 3,196 fans in their home opener.
Mikala McGhee added a free throw with ten seconds remaining and Karly Buer calmly sank two more free throws with six seconds on the clock as MSU preserved the win.
McGhee, who stepped to the line with her team leading 69-68 with 10.8 seconds left in regulation, missed the first toss from the charity stripe, but wouldn't be denied on the second.
"I'll be honest with you, I was pretty excited when she (McGhee) was the one fouled," Harper said. "She typically steps up to the line in pressure situations in practice and makes those free throws. I was a little shocked she missed the first one, but we really needed one to go down for sure."
"She missed the first one, but we're like you got it Kay, you got it Kay," Bry Snow said of McGhee's clutch toss. "You knock them down every day in practice. This is practice. She got up there and just knocked down the second one, and we were all just happy that she did."
The victory seemed like a good bet in the first half as the Lady Bears used an 11-0 run to go ahead 23-12 with 11:14 left after trailing 8-4 early.
A 12-1 Missouri State run put MSU ahead by 19 points, 36-17, with just under five minutes to play in the opening frame as the home team held a 41-27 lead at the half.
"The way we started the game, just so proud of that," Harper said. "I thought our defensive intensity and our defensive focus in that first half won the basketball game. We were where we were supposed to be. The kids bought into our system."
The Lady Bears maintained their first half intensity for the first five minutes of the second half as Tyonna Snow made an acrobatic putback with 15:25 left that gave MSU a 50-39 lead and brought the crowd to its feet.
Little did anyone know Missouri State would go more than 11 minutes before its next bucket. During that time, Arkansas-Little Rock scored 20 of the game's next 26 points, going on a 16-0 run to grab a 57-51 lead with 5:19 remaining.
But MSU battled back, taking a 61-59 lead when Bry Snow hit a shot with 3:14 to play, was fouled, and drained a free throw to put her team ahead 61-59.
There were three more ties before Snow's heroics in the final minute.'
"We had a lot of poise," Harper said of her team's ability to withstand UALR's big run. "We maybe had a couple people look like they wanted to panic, but we settled them down and I was really proud of our ability to stay focused."
Kenzie Williams didn't panic. She led the Lady Bears with a career high 24 points and hit all three of her team's three pointers.
"We didn't want it to be that close," Williams said of the final outcome. "They're a great team and they made some runs, and we just handled it. I think we handled it with poise and just stuck together as a team."
Bry Snow put in 17, also a career high. Tyonna Snow finished with ten points for MSU.
Taylor Gault led four UALR Trojans in double figues with 23 points.
The Lady Bears outrebounded the Trojans 39-27, while shooting 42.6% from the floor (23-54). UALR shot 45.5% (25-55).
MSU hit 23 of 34 free throw attempts (67.6%), with the Trojans connecting on 15 of 25 (60.0%).
Missouri State improves to 1-1 on the season, while the Trojans, the preseason favorite in the Sun Belt Conference, drop to 1-1.
The Lady Bears hit the road for their next two games, playing at IUPUI Sunday afternoon at 1:00, then travelling to Arkansas on November 22nd.
The announced attendance of 3,196 topped the mark for all but one Lady Bears home game last season, and was the largest opening night crowd since 3,802 fans saw MSU lose to ninth ranked Louisville 73-64 on November 13th, 2011.
Missouri State has won 24 of its last 31 games at JQH Arena.
The Lady Bears are 10-1 all time against Arkansas-Little Rock.
All 13 players on the roster saw action Wednesday night for the Lady Bears, with no player on the court less than five minutes.
Sophomore Hillary Chvatal led the Lady Bears in rebounds with six, and scored five points.