John Kean, Sports Information Director
ROLLA – After making a strong second half surge to take as much as a nine-point lead, Missouri S&T’s men’s basketball team was unable to hold off a late run by Illinois Springfield as the Prairie Stars escaped Gibson Arena with an 84-78 Great Lakes Valley Conference win Sunday afternoon.
The Miners held a 67-58 lead following a long jumper by Chima Oduocha (Hoffman Estates, IL/Conant) with 10:02 remaining, but UIS cut into the lead and eventually caught S&T at 74 following a basket by Jack Weber with 2:38 left. After the Miners missed an opportunity to move back in front, the Prairie Stars took the advantage for good when Matt Wendling drained a three-pointer from the wing with exactly two minutes left on the clock – the only three-pointer UIS made in the second half.
UIS extended its lead after a missed shot and two free throws by Chase Robinson, then S&T (2-6) had the lead back down to three when Kaden Froebe (Lincoln, IL/Lincoln) hit two free throws with 1:08 left. However, Robinson went to the basket on UIS’ next possession and converted a three-point play to double the margin as the Prairie Stars (2-2) ended S&T’s two-game winning streak.
The Prairie Stars got out to a quick start in the contest by scoring 10 of the first 12 points before S&T began to warm up as the first half moved along. S&T drew to within a point at 12-11 following a basket by Mitch Fairless (St. Charles, MO/Duchesne) at the 14:32 mark, then tied the game on Julien Smith’s (Fort Worth, TX/Northwest) three-pointer nearly a minute a half later.
S&T never held a lead in the opening half and fell behind by as many as seven on two occasions in the final six minutes of the half. The Miners, who shot 43.8 percent in the first half while UIS was connecting on 62.1 percent of its shots, trailed 40-35 at the intermission but came out smoking when the game resumed after the break.
The Miners failed to score on their first possession of the half, but proceeded to score on their next six trips down the floor. Along the way, S&T took its first lead of the afternoon when Kevin Legardy (Las Vegas, NV/Canyon Springs) hit a jumper on the break as part of a 10-0 run that turned the game in the Miners’ favor.
Leading 52-50 early in the second half, the Miners got hot from beyond the three-point line as they got threes from Smith, Dawson Berry (Centralia, IL/Centralia) and Legardy to extend their lead to seven. Legardy, who had a career-high 24 points Sunday, scored two more times before Oduocha’s basket that gave the Miners their largest lead with 10:02 to go.
But after gaining that nine-point lead, the Miners began to cool from the floor just as the Prairie Stars began cutting into the lead. An 8-0 run cut the Miner lead to one and later in the half, after S&T had extended its lead back to seven, UIS made its decisive 12-0 run which included Wendling’s go-head trey.
Legardy was joined in double figures by Smith with 19 points, Froebe with 13 and Fairless with 11. The Miners shot 50 percent in the second half and finished the day at 46.9 percent from the floor, while also connecting 11 times from three-point range. S&T also outrebounded UIS 36-34 in the game.
Robinson led the Prairie Stars with 18 points as five UIS players scored in double figures.
Missouri S&T returns to action Wednesday when it faces Rockhurst in Kansas City, Mo., in a 5 p.m. game.