Joplin, Mo. -- Despite an impressive run to erase a 13-point halftime deficit, the Missouri Southern Lions fell 91-82 tonight at home to fourth ranked Central Missouri in front of more than 1,800 fans in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
Southern (12-7, 6-6 MIAA) was led by 18 points from Skyler Bowlin. The junior went 8-14 and added five assists in 30 minutes off the bench. Jason Adams and Keane Thomann both scored 16, while Mariun Price added 13. Landon Zerkel had a game-high four steals off the bench.
Central (18-1, 11-1 MIAA) wins its 18th game of the season and has won at least 18 games in seven-straight seasons. The Mules were led by Sanijay Watts with 26 points and 13 rebounds on 10-15 shooting from the field.
The Lions took an early 6-5 lead at the 17:51 mark of the first half on a baseline jumper from Patrick Hester. They led 15-11 after a jumper from Crittendon with just under 15 minutes left, before the Mules went on a 9-0 run and led 20-15 after a layup from Ryan Harris with 13:15 left.
The Lions answered back, however, and went on a 9-2 run and led 24-22 after a three pointer from Price with 10:32 left in the half. Southern's lead was five (31-26) after a jumper from Bowlin with 7:44 left, but the Mules got hot from three and hit four three's as part of a 23-7 run that pushed the UCM lead to 49-38 with just over a minute to go. A couple of late buckets, including a buzzer-beater from Bryce Brunz made the halftime score, 53-40.
Southern clamped down on the defensive pressure in the second half and what was a 13-point lead at the break for the Mules, turned into a tied ball game at the ten minute mark when a layup from Rich Borries tied the score at 66. A free-throw from Bowlin gave the Lions a 67-66 lead and capped off a 27-10 run for the Lions.
Central went back ahead and the Lions got within five after a basket from Adams with 1:44 left made the score 84-79, Mules. Central made 7-10 freebies in the final minute to seal the win.
Southern had 20 assists and a season-low five turnovers in the loss, but were out-rebounded by the Mules 44-25. The Lions shot 47 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free-throw line, but couldn't stop the 56 percent shooting performance from the field and 50 percent from long range of the Mules tonight. Points in the paint were even at 32, but 14 offensive rebounds for the Mules led to 24 second chance points. The Lions scored 26 points off of 18 Central turnovers.
The Lions will be back in action Saturday night when they head to Bolivar to take on Southwest Baptist at 7:30 pm in the Meyer Sports Center.