When you go on a 10-game winning streak, you typically need everything to go your way. For the Missouri State Bears (18-13), everything went their way Saturday afternoon in the Valley semifinals enroute to a 75-66 win over seventh-seeded Evansville Purple Aces.
"We are really excited to be playing on Sunday," said Missouri State head coach Kellie Harper. "That was our goal when we got here. We beat the hot team today."
Evansville had been the darlings of the tournament, knocking off second-seeded Drake Bulldogs on Friday evening 84-79 in overtime. They set a tournament record in made 3-pointers, but everything must have been used up against Drake. Despite setting the record, the Aces hit 10 on Saturday, but wasn't nearly enough as they all came too late.
Missouri State's defense was tenacious. They forced 18 Ace turnovers, leading to 14 first half Lady Bears points. They would finish with 26 points off turnovers. They also held the Aces to zero point for the first four minutes of the ball game. After a made Mallory Ladd three, the Lady Bears then held them for another three minutes without a field goal. It would be the 10:05 mark in the first half before the Aces would get their third field goal. They were already trailing 18-8 at that point.
Fatigue was a factor for Evansville. They played a thrilling, fast paced overtime against Drake last night. Sara Dickey, the team's leading scorer admitted they might have been a little tired and did not push through the fatigue until it was too late.
"Fatigue factored into it some," said Dickey. "We didn't push through and not think about it."
The Lady Bears rode the back of Tyonna Snow on Friday night, against Evansville, it became a team affair. Six different Lady Bears scored at least seven points.
Tyonna Snow scored 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting for Missouri State. Kenzie Williams scored 14 points. Hillary Chvatal had 10 points and eight rebounds. Liza Fruendt scored 10 points as well.
Another scoring drought led to the biggest lead of the half for the Lady Bears. Williams who finished with 14 points, led Missouri State to a 32-16 lead at halftime.
Evansville struggled to shoot the long ball and penetrate all game long. The abcense due to foul trouble from Ladd became too big of a hurdle to overcome. The One night showing of Khristian Hart didn't return, nor has the Valley seen the Sara Dickey that was third in scoring. She shot just 13-of-43, 30.2 percent, for the tournament.
When the Aces made their run to get back into the game, it was too late. There was less than two minutes left and a deficit just too large for Evansville. Peyton Langston and Ladd hit back-to-back 3-pointers for the Aces to cut the lead to within 73-64 with 57 seconds remaining.
Missouri State would nail their free throws sealing up the 75-66 victory.
Missouri State advances to the Valley championship game for the first time since 2011, when they fell to Northern Iowa 69-41. They'll play the top seed Wichita State Shockers (28-4) at 2 p.m. That game can be seen on ESPN3.
The Aces valiant run came to an end with the 75-66 loss to Missouri State. For a team two starters and seven other players to a team that won 13 games. It's the first time Evansville has won two games at the Valley tournament since 2009.