Missouri State (6-0) vs. Virginia (6-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 30, 9 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: American Bank Center Arena (8,000) -- Corpus Christi, Texas. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: MSU 4-0, UVA 4-1. Away Record: MSU 1-0, UVA 0-0. Neutral Record: MSU 1-0, UVA 2-0. Conference Record: MSU 0-0, UVA 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Corpus Christi Challenge concludes on Saturday night with the championship bout pitting the Missouri State Bears against the Virginia Cavaliers.
Only a year removed from a forgettable 11-22 campaign, Missouri State is one of the nation's biggest surprises in the early going with a perfect 6-0 record. The Bears' most recent victory was also their most impressive, as they bested Texas A&M in the opening round on Friday night, 73-67
Since suffering a 59-56 home setback on Nov. 12, the Cavaliers have run off five consecutive victories to pull to 6-1 on the season. In the semifinals of this event on Friday night, the Cavs fell on the winning side of a tightly- contested battle with SMU, 76-73.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two squads.
The Bears trailed Texas A&M for most of their semifinal matchup, but they hung around and kept the deficit to single digits before taking control of the game midway through the second half with a 9-0 run. After shooting just 23.3 percent from the field in the opening stanza, they improved to 55.6 percent after intermission and were outstanding from the foul line all night long (21- of-23). Pacing four teammates in double figures was Austin Ruder, who drilled 5-of-9 from 3-point range for 19 points. Dorrian Williams added 12 points, while Emmanuel Addo and Jarmar Gulley chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively. Missouri State has been impressive in all facets of the game this season, as it boasts positive margins in terms of scoring (+11.2), rebounding (+2.7) and turnovers (+2.8). The deep roster, which has nine players averaging at least 4.5 points per game, is led by Gulley (14.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg). Marcus Marshall (11.8 ppg) and Christian Kirk (9.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg) have also been consistent contributors.
A back-and-forth battle between Virginia and SMU featured 11 ties and 14 lead changes, but Anthony Gill managed to snap a 53-53 stalemate midway through the second half to give the Cavaliers a lead it would not relinquish down the stretch. The team shot a solid 45.5 percent from the field, which included an outstanding 10-of-14 showing from 3-point range. Gill led the way with an excellent effort of the bench, as he tallied 19 points and seven rebounds. Joe Harris (15 points) and Evan Nolte (12 points) combined to go 6-of-6 from beyond the arc. On the season, Virginia has shot the ball well, making 47.8 percent of its field goal tries for 67.7 points per game, but where it really shines is at the other end of the court, as its scoring defense (52.1 ppg) ranks as one of the nation's best. Harris (12.0 ppg) is the team's leading scorer, while Gill (10.7 ppg) is making his field goals just shy of 70 percent of the time. Malcolm Brogdon (10.4 ppg) has also been solid.
The Bears' perfect start is quite an accomplishment, and they have a certain "it" factor about them that could cause trouble for Virginia. But in the end, the Cavaliers' defensive pressure will be too much for Missouri State to handle.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia 66, Missouri State 59
11/30 10:35:47 ET