SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The McKendree University men's basketball team wrapped up its two-game exhibition schedule Sunday with a 104-71 loss Sunday afternoon at NCAA Division I Missouri State University.
The Bearcats grabbed a six-point lead in the opening moments of the contest, but Missouri State reeled off 22 consecutive points in the middle stages of the first half to take the lead for good. McKendree, which dropped a 101-66 decision Thursday night at the University of Illinois, will now prepare for its 2013-14 regular-season opener set for Nov. 8 at the Harry M. Statham Sports Center against Central Christian College. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
Five different McKendree players scored in double figures at Missouri State. Junior guard Mike DiGregorio led the way with 17 points, which included a 10-for-13 effort from the free throw line. Senior guard Clinton Happe added 15 points, while junior forward Matt Holmes came off the bench to collect 13 points and seven rebounds.
Junior forwards Arthur Williams and Jeremy Price each connected for 10 points in the contest. Williams posted a double-double against the Bears by adding a game-high 10 rebounds along with his 10 points.
Much like the Illinois game, McKendree broke out to a fast start in Sunday's matchup with Missouri State. The Bearcats scored 10 of the first 14 points of play, capped by a three-pointer from DiGregorio at the 15:38 mark, to stake McKendree out to a 10-4 advantage. The Bears eventually fought back and took a 15-14 lead on two free throws by Devon Thomas. DiGregorio was fouled on McKendree's next possession, and his two free throws with 11:16 left until halftime pushed the Bearcats back in front, 16-15
From there, Missouri State went on its decisive run. It took nearly six minutes for the Bears to reel off their 22 straight points, and a dunk by Christian Kirk with 5:22 remaining in the half close out the spurt to give Missouri State a 37-16 lead. Freshman guard Michael Jackson (O'Fallon) ended the scoreless streak for McKendree on a free throw with 5:15 left until the intermission.
Missouri State shot nearly 53 percent (20-of-38) from the field in building a 51-28 halftime lead. The Bears improved on that figure in the second half, connecting on just under 60 percent (22-of-37) of its tries in the final 20 minutes of play. In the second half, Missouri State led by as many as 35 points in cruising to the win. The Bears are coached by former Wesclin High School and Southern Illinois University standout Paul Lusk.
Austin Ruder came off the bench to lead a balanced scoring attack for Missouri State with 16 points. Kirk chipped in with 11 points, while a quartet of Bears each notched 10 points, including Marcus Marshall, who is the reigning Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year.
This is the second consecutive year that McKendree and Missouri State have met in exhibition action on the basketball court. Back on Nov. 3, 2012, the host Bears rolled to an 82-54 win over the Bearcats.