ST. LOUIS — Missouri State announced Saturday that men's basketball coach Paul Lusk would not return for an eighth season in 2018-19 in an afternoon press conference.
Lusk, a former Saluki guard, will receive a $370,000 buyout from non-university funds for the remaining year on this contract, according to a release from the school. Lusk went 105-121 in seven years, including 52-74 in the Missouri Valley Conference, with one postseason appearance in 2014. The Bears lost their first game in the Collegeinsider.com tournament (CIT) to finish 20-13. Missouri State never finished higher than third in the Valley during his tenure and became the first preseason conference favorite to fall into the first round of the Valley Tournament this season.
SIU beat Missouri State 67-63 in Friday's tournament quarterfinals, in what turned out to be Lusk's final game. The Bears finished 18-15 overall and 7-11 in the MVC, tying Evansville and Northern Iowa for seventh place.
"We evaluate all of our coaches at the conclusion of each season and monitor several criteria during the year," Missouri State athletic director Kyle Moats said in the release. "Based on my review, I consulted with President (Clif) Smart on Friday evening and gave him my recommendation that we make a change in the coaching leadership of our men's basketball program. President Smart supported my recommendation. These decisions are never easy. However, we believe it is in the best long-term interest of our men's basketball program."
Associate head coach Corey Gipson will oversee the day-to-day duties of the program until a new coach is named. The Bears could return 10 players from this season's club, including two starters, junior forward Obediah Church and junior guard Jarred Dixon. Church, the Bears' all-time blocks leader, became just the second Missouri State player in school history to earn All-Defensive Team honors for the second time.
"I want to thank the athletic department and leadership at Missouri State for the opportunity to coach the men's basketball program," Lusk said. "I will always cherish the relationships I've built here and the young men who have worked so hard for me and my staff. I wish the university tremendous success moving forward."
Loyola holds off Bradley to reach MVC finals: Marques Townes and MVC player of the year Clayton Custer scored 12 points each to lift Loyola past Bradley 62-54 in the first semifinal Saturday.
Down one with 6:42 to go, the Braves (20-13) missed four shots and two free throws before Townes' 3-pointer put the Ramblers (27-5) up five at the 1:25 mark. Donte Thomas, Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye and Nate Kennell all had 12 for Bradley. Darrell Brown added 11.
Donte Ingram scored eight points and grabbed eight boards for Loyola, which will take on Illinois State in today's championship game at 1 p.m. Ben Richardson added seven points, two rebounds and five assists.