Feb. 25, 2014
Springfield, Mo. - Missouri State used a 14-4, first-half run to open up a double-digit lead and was able to rebuff each Loyola charge, knocking off the Ramblers 72-56 tonight at JQH Arena in Springfield, Mo. Loyola slips to 9-20 (4-13 MVC) with one regular-season game remaining while the Bears improve to 19-10 (9-8).
Both teams got off to good starts, offensively, and Missouri State jumped out to an early 9-2 lead to prompt a Loyola timeout. The Ramblers were able to regroup, and Matt O'Leary scored five points in a 12-4 run that pulled the visitors into a 16-all tie at the 11:27 mark. However, Loyola went cold over the next six minutes and MSU's Christian Kirk had two three-point plays in the 14-4 run that gave the Bears a 30-20 edge with just over five minutes left. Tony Nixon's second triple of the period helped Loyola hang around before a tough sequence at the end of the half, that ended with MSU's Austin Ruder banking in a 35-footer at the buzzer, that sent the Ramblers to the locker room staring at a 41-27 deficit.
Loyola came out with a renewed sense of purpose in the second half, pulling within seven (43-36) after a Joe Crisman three-pointer and a Milton Doyle transition basket. Missouri State's Jarmar Gulley wiggled free for a big tip-in to stem the tide and the Bears were able to extend the lead back to 13 (51-38) with just over 11 minutes to play. The deficit was back down to eight later after Doyle split a pair from the line but it was Gulley again, working the offensive boards for a put-back to push the lead back to double figures, and the Bears would cruise from there.
The Ramblers shot a respectable 48% for the game but Missouri State was a shade better, hitting an even 50% while turning it over just eight times. After not attempting a free throw in the first half, Loyola was just 5-of-14 (36%) from the stripe in the second half.
Nixon had his best game as a Rambler, drilling 5-of-8 from the arc en route to a season-high 15 points. He was joined in double figures by Crisman (14 points, six rebounds) while Christian Thomas added nine points and eight rebounds. Kirk led Missouri State with 16 points off the bench.
Loyola wraps up its regular season on Saturday night when it hosts Evansville at Gentile Arena. Tip is scheduled for 3 p.m. and the Ramblers will honor its seniors in a pregame ceremony.