By: Rick Kindhart
SPRINGFIELD – Keaton Hervey scored a season-high 18 points, snagged 6 rebounds and blocked 3 shots to lead four Missouri State players in double figures as the Bears turned back visiting Southern Illinois, 65-53, here Wednesday.
MSU (12-5, 8-5 MVC) capped its third straight Missouri Valley Conference win by shooting 61 percent in the second half and out-rebounding the visitors by a 35-27 margin.
Ja’Monta Black added 13 points for the Bears with Isiaih Mosley pitching in 12 with a team-high 8 rebounds, and Gaige Prim stacking up 10 points and 5 assists.
Southern Illinois (9-8, 3-8 MVC) was led by Lance Jones with 13 points, while Dalton Banks added 12 points and a team-high 6 rebounds off the bench for the Salukis.
After MSU led by three at the intermission, Hervey helped ignite a 16-6 Missouri State run that culminated in back-to-back 3-pointers from the Bears junior. He also had a key layup in that sequence for the home side to help put things out of reach.
Black shared team 3-point honors with Hervey and Jared Ridder as the sophomore buried two huge buckets that helped swing things Missouri State’s way. With SIU leading 13-12 in the first half, Black’s triple pushed the Bears up by two and gave the home side a lead it would never relinquish. Later in the game, after the Salukis trimmed an 11-point Bears lead down to 42-39, Black’s trey gave MSU a six-point cushion with 10:32 to go.
Down the stretch, Black proved critical at the line as well, going 5-for-5 from the stripe to finish in double figures for the second game in a row.
The Bears accounted for 34 points in the paint and finished the night 24-of-49 (.490) from the field, 6-of-19 (.316) from long range and 11-for-13 (.846) at the line with a dozen assists.
Southern Illinois finished 18-of-52 (.346) from the field, 5-for-18 (.278) from long range and 12-of-19 (.632) at the stripe with 9 turnovers.
The win secured Missouri State’s 49th straight winning season at home as the Bears improved to 7-4 at JQH Arena this season with two games to play. MSU also improved to 9-1 this season when out-rebounding its opponent.
In the first half, the Bears made five of their first seven shots to lead 10-7 less than five minutes in. But both teams then went cold from the field for a stretch, combining for a 2-for-18 swing over the next eight minutes. Black’s triple from the right wing calmed the choppy waters and pushed coach Dana Ford’s team ahead for good.
Later in the opening period, Ridder buried a 3-pointer from the left side to push the Bears ahead 20-15, their largest lead of the half, before going into the intermission with a 24-21 advantage.
The Bears close out their 2020-21 home schedule this weekend when they entertain Bradley University for two games, Saturday (5 p.m.) and Sunday (3 p.m.) at JQH Arena. Tickets for the Bradley series are available at MissouriStateBears.com or during regular box office hours at the Old Missouri Bank Box Office at JQH Arena, (417) 836-7678