The Northeastern State men's basketball team lost 73-72 to Northwest Missouri State Thursday night inside Bearcat Arena.
The Bearcats (14-5, 7-3 MIAA) came back after trailing by as many as 20 points in the opening half. Conner Crooker converted a game-winning three-point play with just 4.4 seconds remaining after junior guard Bryton Hobbs missed a pair of free throws on the other end.
The RiverHawks (14-5, 7-4 MIAA) built a 42-22 lead at the 5:42 mark of the opening half on the strength of a 73-percent shooting performance from the field.
Northwest Missouri State found its rhythm and used a 15-4 run to cut the deficit to 46-37 at intermission.
The home team kept dwindling down the NSU lead over the majority of the second half, and Crooker made a pair of free throws at 6:35 to give his team its first lead of the game of 59-57.
Northeastern State went on an 8-0 run to take a 65-59 lead with 3:52 remaining, but two more free throws from Crooker and a freebie from Bryston Williams cut the deficit back to one possession.
The two teams exchanged free throws, and sophomore forward Landon DeMasters made a mid-range jumper from the baseline at 1:27 to give NSU a 69-64 edge.
An old-fashioned three-point play from Williams and a trey from Alex Sullivan put the home side down just two at 72-70 with 19 seconds left. Hobbs got fouled with 10 seconds left, but he missed both free throws, and Crooker ran down to the other end of the floor and converted yet another old-fashioned three-point play with 4.4 seconds left.
NSU could not get off a clean look at the buzzer and saw its four-game win streak snapped.
Crooker led all scorers with 24 points off the bench. He was 7-for-11 from the field and 9-for-9 from the free-throw line. Grant Cozad added 19 and Williams scored 17 for the Bearcats.
DeMasters scored a season-high 19 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He was also 9-for-10 at the free-throw line. Senior forward Jermaine Bransford added 17 points for NSU.
Northeastern State shot 52 percent (24-for-46) from the field, 43 percent (6-for-14) from distance and 67 percent (18-for-27) at the line.
Northwest Missouri State shot 39 percent (21-for-54) from the field, 17 percent (2-for-12) beyond the arc and 91 percent (29-for-32) at the charity stripe.
The RiverHawks will end a three-game road stretch with a 3:30 p.m. matchup Feb. 2 against Missouri Western State.