March 22, 2010

Missouri State runs past Louisiana Tech

Box Score

SPRINGFIELD -- Missouri State (22-12) forced 17 turnovers and got 20 points from Adam Leonard to turn back visiting Louisiana Tech, 69-40, in the Postseason Tournament quarterfinals here Monday.

Leonard broke the MSU single-season three-point record late in the first half with his 95th of the season and extended his total to 98 by game's end with six long-range shots on the night. He finished 6-for-11 from beyond the arc, just one try shy of the school single-game record.

The Bears extended a five-point halftime lead to double figures less than four minutes into the second half, and the Bulldogs (24-11) were never closer than seven the rest of the way. A layup by Will Creekmore with 16:07 to go in the game put MSU up 38-28. La Tech cut its deficit to seven on a three-point play by David Jackson two minutes later. However, Nafis Ricks -- who earned his first start of the season -- knocked down a three-pointer at the 13:27 mark to put the Bears back up by double figures, 43-33.

The Bears ended the game on a 26-7 run and finished with 24 second-half rebounds. The final margin of victory was the largest of the season for Missouri State which moved 10 games over .500 for the first time since they were 13-3 on January 9.

Joining Leonard in double figures for Missouri State were Ricks with 13 and Will Creekmore with 10. Creekmore also had a game-high 10 rebounds to tally his third career double-double. Justin Fuehrmeyer added a game-high five assists and four steals for the Bears.

Missouri State fired at a 48-percent clip in the second half and finished 22-for-58 (.379), including eight three-pointers. The Bears were also 17-for-18 (.944) at the free throw line, their second-best effort of the year. The Bears committed just nine turnovers and outrebounded La Tech by a 40-31 margin.

Louisiana Tech was led by Jackson with 10 points and nine rebounds, while Magnum Rolle added nine off the bench. The Bulldogs, from the Western Athletic Conference, were 16-for-51 (.314) from the field with four threes.

La Tech ended a memorable campaign with four losses over its last six games. Monday's loss matched its most-lopsided defeat of the year after falling 81-52 at New Mexico on November 21.

Missouri State will host Missouri Valley Conference rival Creighton on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. in the CIT semifinals. The Bluejays (18-15) were 73-55 winners over Fairfield in another quarterfinal game Monday in Omaha.

Tickets for the game will go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday by calling (417) 836-7678. Missouri State students may begin claiming free game tickets at that time at the MSU Athletics Box Office at JQH Arena.

Pacific and Appalachian State will meet in the other semifinal. The championship game will be hosted by the MSU-Creighton winner on Tuesday, March 30 and will air live nationally on FOX College Sports and the FOX Sports Regional family of networks.

In the first half, Leonard notched 11 points and scored knocked down three treys to help the Bears to a 28-23 advantage at the break. The spirited first period saw both teams pushing the ball up the floor, but accuracy was not a strength for either club in the early going. After the Bears jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first three minutes, they went six-and-a-half minutes without a point while the visiting Bulldogs climbed ahead 7-5.

Kyle Weems tied the game at the 10:40 mark on a pair of free throws, taking advantage of one of just two personal fouls called on La Tech in the first period. Back-to-back three-pointers by Fuehrmeyer and Leonard built MSU's lead to 19-12 with six minutes to go in the period, its biggest of the half. Leonard then broke the MSU single-season three-point record with 21 seconds to go in the opening half to put the Bears up by five at the intermission.

Leonard, the MVC Newcomer of the Year, surpassed Blake Ahearn (2006-07) and Johnny Murdock (1992-93) who each hit 94 threes in their respective record-setting campaigns. Leonard's personal season high of 104 came during his freshman season at Eastern Kentucky.

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