Missouri State wins basketball season opener

SPRINGFIELD – Paced by a career-high 26 points from senior Jarred Dixon, Missouri State toppled visiting Oral Roberts Tuesday, 84-50, in the season opener for both clubs.

Dixon paced four Bears in double figures with Ryan Kreklow adding 13, Keandre Cook scoring 12, and Kabir Mohammed pouring in 11 for the home side.

Oral Roberts was led by Kerwin Smith and Emmanuel Nzekwesi with 12 points apiece.

The Bears shot 55.6 percent from the field (35-of-63) overall and 67.4 percent from 2-point range in a dominant offensive showing that included 21 assists and 52 points in the paint.

Missouri State also out-rebounded the visitors by a 39-34 margin. Cook, Mohammed and Obediah Church shared game-high rebounding honors with seven apiece, while Josh Webster dished out nine assists.

After the lead teetered back and forth five times in the first 10 minutes, the Bears extended a 21-19 advantage into a 13-point lead in the span of less than three minutes. Kreklow and Cook led the charge that resulted in two quick ORU timeouts to stop the surge. Dixon’s fast-break bucket with 7:52 left in the opening half made it a 32-19 contest, energizing a JQH Arena crowd of greater than 5,000 with the scoring outburst.

Church closed out the opening stanza with a pair of dunks, and Mohammed’s slam with less than two minutes before the intermission gave Missouri State its biggest lead of the half, 44-26.

The second half was much the same with MSU scoring the first 13 points out of the break – including nine straight by Dixon at one point – to make it 57-28 before the 16-minute mark. The Bears would eventually extend their lead to 30 on a driving bucket by Webster with just under five minutes to play.

Coach Dana Ford’s squad ended the night with a basket by Mohammed in the final 30 seconds to give the home side its biggest advantage of the evening and a 34-point win in Ford’s debut game with MSU.

Missouri State improved to 36-1 in home openers during its Division I era and earned its 16th straight home-opening victory.

The Golden Eagles were 17-of-58 (.293) from the field and 5-of-28 (.179) from long distance with 21 turnovers and no fast-break opportunities.

The Bears continue a three-game home stand to start the 2018-19 campaign on Friday night when they entertain Robert Morris at 7 p.m. in the preliminary round of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Classic.

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