After sustaining a torn ACL and missing last season, Missouri State forward Jamar Gulley is making up for lost time.
Gulley scored a career-high 23 points to lead the Bears to an 81-67 victory over visiting Hampton on Sunday in the Corpus Christi Challenge at JQH Arena in Springfield.
Missouri State (4-0) also got a career-high 21 points and a team-high nine rebounds from forward Christian Kirk, who led an overwhelming effort by the Bears' bench.
In the first meeting of the teams, the Missouri State reserves had more points (49-3), rebounds (24-6) and assists (12-1) than Hampton's. The Bears' bench made 19 of 34 shots from the floor while the Pirates' reserves missed all but one of their 15 attempts against Missouri State's stingy 2-3 zone.
In losing for the third straight time, Hampton (2-3) was led by sophomore point guard Deron Powers, who scored a career-high 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Forward Du'Vaughn Maxwell added eight points and a game-high 14 points for the Pirates.
Gulley, a 6-foot-5 senior, had 17 of his points in the final 17 minutes as Missouri State pulled away. Gulley finished eight of 11 from the floor, made both of his 3-point attempts and added four steals. His 3-pointer with 4:23 left gave the Bears their biggest lead, 77-56.
Hampton rushed to an 8-0 advantage as Powers and guard Brian Darden hit 3-pointers. But falling behind early has been a constant this season for Missouri State. The Bears answered with a 14-2 rush, fueled by a three-point play by center Tyler McCullough.
With its reserves on the floor, Missouri State began to take control late in the first half. A 12-2 run was highlighted by a 3-pointer by sophomore forward Gavin Thurman and a sensational fast-break three-point play by freshman guard Devon Thomas. When Thurman closed the half with a buzzer-beating baseline jumper, MSU had its biggest lead to that point, 42-31.
The Corpus Christi Challenge continues Tuesday for Missouri State with a game against Liberty.