SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (AP)—Missouri State’s Blake Ahearn said he wasn’t all that worried about facing No. 7 Wisconsin.
He played like it, too, going 3-of-5 from 3-point range, making six of seven free throws, and scoring 25 points as the Bears shocked Wisconsin 66-64 on Friday in the semifinals of the South Padre Island Invitational.
“It’s just another game,” Ahearn said. “We can’t worry about who’s on the front of that jersey over there. We’re a bunch guys from Springfield, Missouri, just coming out trying to play hard and play together.”
The Bears (4-0) led by as many as 19 in the first half, but they had to come back late in the game after Wisconsin (4-1) rallied.
“We felt like we played outstanding defense in the first half,” Missouri State coach Barry Hinson said. “In the second half, we knew that they would be getting hot. We just told our team that we were one step away from winning this game if we could get just one stop, one rebound.”
Missouri State will face Oklahoma State in the title game Saturday.
The Badgers took a 62-57 on a 3-point shot by Alando Tucker with 5:25 remaining.
But then Missouri State outscored the Badgers 9-2 the rest of the way. A jump shot by Nathan Bilyeu made it 65-62 before Wisconsin’s Tucker and Kammron Taylor each missed free throws in the final 1:14. A Bilyeu free throw with 1:05 left made it 66-63 for the Bears.
Taylor’s free throw with 46 seconds left cut the lead to 66-64.
Tucker led Wisconsin with 26 points and had a chance to win it. After a missed shot by the Bears, Tucker attempted a 3-pointer from the left side just before the buzzer that bounced off the rim.
Missouri State shot 63 percent from the floor (14-of-22) in the first half and hit 6-of-7 3-pointers to take a 45-32 lead by halftime. Overall, the Bears shot 45 percent (23-of-51).
Ahearn finished 8-of-13 from the field. Deven Mitchell added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Bears.
The Bears raced to a 7-0 start and their biggest lead came with 1:06 remaining before halftime, when Ahearn sank a pair of free throws to put Missouri State up 45-26.
Wisconsin shot 34 percent (11-of-32) in the first half and 39 percent (22-of-56) for the game. The Badgers shot 13 percent (2-of-15) from 3-point range.
“Missouri State is a good team,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. “We just had too many missed shots. We definitely weren’t shooting that well. I think it was because both teams were playing so well defensively.”
Tucker was held to nine points in the first half on 4-of-10 shooting but made six of nine shots in the second half, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range. Michael Flowers added 10 points for Wisconsin.