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NCAAW Preview: No. 25 Missouri State looking for bigger blowouts as it prepares for March

The No. 25 Missouri State Lady Bears are undefeated in the Missouri Valley Conference, but they have had four close calls. The Bradley Braves hope they are not the fifth.

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 30 Div I Women’s Championship - Third Round - Missouri State v Stanford Cardinal
Jasmine Franklin (with ball) is Missouri State’s leading rebounder.
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The No. 25 Missouri State Lady Bears (13-2, 9-0 MVC) are coming off a thrilling 73-72 victory over the Illinois State Redbirds on Feb. 13 in which senior guard Brice Calip made the game-winning shot with 1.4 seconds left.

What is concerning about that one-point win, however, is that it came against a team that is 9-6 overall and 6-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference — not bad, but not as good as the competition the Lady Bears will see in the NCAA Tournament.

On Friday at 8 p.m. ET, the Bradley Braves (12-8, 8-5 MVC) — hoping to spoil the Lady Bears’ perfect conference record and steal the automatic bid for the MVC away from Missouri State — will try to be two points better than Illinois State (10-6, 7-6 MVC), Drake (12-8, 10-3 MVC) and Valparaiso (7-9, 3-6 MVC) .

Drake lost to Missouri State 73-72 on Jan. 22 and Valparaiso lost 74-73 on Jan. 31.

The Lady Bears have had one other close call in conference play and that was a four-point win over the Northern Iowa Panthers (9-9, 6-5 MVC) on Jan. 16. The rest of their MVC wins have been by double digits. The Lady Bears join No. 1 UConn Huskies, No. 12 South Florida Bulls and No. 23 South Dakota State Jackrabbits as the only ranked teams with undefeated conference records.

The Braves alternated wins and losses for their first nine games of the season before their tenth began a two-game winning streak that turned into a five consecutive wins. Since then, the Braves are 3-4, but coming off a win over the Panthers on Jan. 13. They split the conference series with Drake and picked up their sole loss against Illinois State. In addition, Bradley split conference series with Northern Iowa and the Loyola Chicago Ramblers (third place in the MVC at 7-4).

With Lasha Petree (18.6 points per game) leading the way, Bradley is dangerous and could challenge Missouri State on Friday and Saturda. Petree is a great defender, averaging 1.6 steals and 2.5 blocks per game. Gabi Haack (16.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game) and Nyjah White (11.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game) join her in double-figure scoring.

Calip leads the Lady Bears with 14.6 points and 4.6 assists per contest, while Jasmine Franklin provides 11 points and nine rebounds on average. Abby Hipp and Elle Ruffridge are also key contributors, averaging 9.3 points and 9.1 points, respectively.

Game Information

Bradley Braves (12-8, 8-5 MVC) vs. No. 25 Missouri State Lady Bears (13-2, 9-0 MVC)

When: Friday, Feb. 19, at 8 p.m. ET

Where: JQH Arena in Springfield, MO

How to watch/listen: ESPN3/Radio: WIRL 1290 AM (Bradley) or Radio: KWTO 101.3 FM (Missouri State)

Key to the matchup: Missouri State’s 3-point defense. It’s the only significant advantage for either side. Bradley is the better shooting team in all three categories (field goal, 3-point and free-throw percentage). But Missouri State has the better field-goal and 3-point percentage defenses, while also sending teams to the line less often. So, that combination could allow the Lady Bears to even the playing field, but their drastically better 3-point field goal percentage defense (27.9 to 33.4) is the real key that could allow them to pull away. Bradley may want to counter by looking to score inside.

Reason to watch: Missouri State is quietly sitting with a huge win over the No. 9 Maryland Terrapins on its resume. So, the Lady Bears can hang with the top teams at its best, but it also has two one-point wins in the MVC, meaning Bradley may be able to hang tough in this one.