When most teams lose their best players— especially the multidimensional types— they have a hard time winning games in college basketball. This task is even more daunting as the conference schedule draws to a conclusion; conference foes are trying to lock up the best seeds for the tournament.
When the Missouri State Bears squared off against Indiana State Saturday night, they had to accept the challenge of defeating the No. 2 team in the Missouri Valley Conference without their best player, Marcus Marshall.
The sophomore stand-out was shooting 40 percent from three-point range, 80 percent on free throws and was one of the leading scorers on his team before suffering a leg injury in a loss against Wichita State on Jan. 11, 72-69 in overtime. As a freshman last season, Marshall scored 25 points against WSU in a conference tournament loss in which he led all scorers.
Marshall is the Bears’ best player offensively and, arguably, defensively as well. But good teams win despite adversity and live by the mantra, “next man up.”
The frontcourt of Missouri State led it to an impressive victory over ISU, 77-66. Senior Jarmar Gulley notched 14 points and nine rebounds while adding four assists and four steals. Fellow senior Keith Pickens tabbed 10 points and eight rebounds.
The Bears’ Austin Ruder was effective from beyond the arc (3-5) while leading a defensive charge that held the Sycamore offense to just 20 percent from three-point land. Ruder finished with 15 points and two rebounds.
Despite losing a sensational talent like Marshall, Gulley and the battle-tested Bears are utilizing the most of their remaining talent. Marshall may not be available for the rest of the year, but the Bears’ depth will make them a dangerous team come tourney time.