Missouri State basketball wins Paradise Jam championship by beating Abilene Christian

Missouri State basketball wins Paradise Jam championship by beating Abilene Christian

Missouri State has secured itself an early-season championship.

The Bears (4-1) will bring home some hardware as they won the 2023 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam championship with an 87-69 win over Abilene Christian (3-3) on Monday night.

The mid-season tournament title is the Bears’ first since it hosted and won the Hispanic College Fund Challenge in 2009 under Cuonzo Martin.

A four-win winning streak matches the Bears’ longest of last season just five games into the new year. They will look to extend their winning streak to five when they host South Carolina State at Great Southern Bank Arena at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Monday night’s MTE championship win featured an impressive first-half comeback and the breakout game from one of Missouri State’s young standouts.

Abilene Christian couldn’t miss in the early minutes while building its lead to 10 with 9:30 left in the half. The Bears outscored ACU 25-7 for the remainder of the period with Chance Moore and Alston Mason each hitting a 3-pointer en route to leading by eight at the break.

Sophomore big man N.J. Benson also established himself in the paint and showed that he could be a threat for the Bears throughout this season. He continued a solid tournament by scoring 11 points on 5 of 7 shots to go with 10 rebounds for a first-half double-double.

Benson finished the game with 17 points on 8 of 10 shooting with 16 rebounds and three blocks.

Abilene Christian looked like it was going to make it a game multiple times within the first 10 minutes of the second half but the Bears always had an answer. The Wildcats brought the game within one with 13:53 left which was as close as they’d get. The Bears responded with a 7-0 run and kept their distance for the remainder of the night.

Benson continued to dominate while the Bears stayed hot from the field. Five different players scored in double-digits including Benson, Mason, Moore Donovan Clay and Matthew Lee.

Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at wwheeler@news-leader.com or X at @WyattWheeler_NL. He’s also the host of the weekly “Wyatt’s World Podcast” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other podcasting platforms

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