ST. LOUIS – Freshman Austin Ruder matched his career-high with 21 points and fourth-seeded Missouri State made just enough free throws down the stretch Thursday for a 53-48 win over fifth-seeded Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament quarterfinals.
The Bears (20-11) face top-seeded and second-ranked Wichita State in the semifinals.
Ruder hit a 3-pointer with 2:05 lead to put Missouri State up 48-46. After a miss by the Redbirds (16-15), Keith Pickens had a tip-in to make it 50-46 with 42 seconds remaining. After that, the Bears made 3 of 6 free throws, two by Dorrian Williams after Zach Lofton's jumper for Illinois State made it 50-48 with 11 seconds to play.
Zach Lofton came off the bench to score a career-high 25 for Illinois State, which trailed 22-17 at the half.
Neither team shot even 33 percent, combining for 14 of 46 3's and 19 of 36 free throws.