Joplin, Mo. - The Missouri Southern Basketball team never trailed and used clutch free-throw shooting down down the stretch to hang on for an 83-77 win over Mid-American Christian in its opening game at the 2009 Freeman Sports Medicine/Chris Tucker Memorial Classic tonight.
The Lions (4-0) led by just one (61-60) with seven minutes left, but outscored the Evangels (4-3) 22-17 over the final stretch to secure the win. During that same period, the Lions were 12-14 from the free-throw line to pull away.
Jason Adams led the Lions in scoring with 16 points and pulled down six boards. DaRell Crittendon had 13 points and eight boards, while Skyler Bowlin scored 11 and dished out nine assists. Patrick Hester scored nine, while Mariun Price and Rich Bories had eight points each.
The Lions opened up a ten-point advantage halfway through the first half after a three from Travis Jones made the score 22-12. The lead was as high as 13 (38-25) after a jumper from Chris Scruggs with 1:17 left in the half. A late run by MACU made the halftime advantage 38-29.
The Lions pushed their lead to 14 (47-33), the largest of the night, after a three-point play from Keane Thomann. The lead shrunk to one twice, before the Lions' clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch sealed the win.
Southern shot 44 percent from the floor, and 77 percent from the free-throw led by 7-8 and 5-7 performances from Bowlin and Adams, respectively. The Lions forced 21 MACU turnovers, scoring 13 points off the miscues.
In earlier tournament action today, Pittsburg State overcame an early 13-point deficit to come from behind and defeat Southwestern College 78-67.
The Lions will conclude the classic tomorrow evening when they play host to Southwestern at 8 pm in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.