Bears host Bradley Wednesday to start three-game Valley homestand



The Missouri State Bears open the 2008 portion of their season schedule with a three-game Missouri Valley Conference homestand in Hammons Student Center. The Bears host the Bradley Braves Wednesday (Jan. 2) at 7:05 p.m., followed by matchups against Creighton Saturday (Jan. 5) and Wichita State (Jan. 8). The Bears come into the game with three straight losses and a 7-6 season record with an 0-1 Valley log after a 79-71 setback at Southern Illinois Sunday in the league opener for both teams.

 The Bears open their Valley slate after six busy weeks of non-conference action. The Bears played right up to a short Christmas break when they split of four games in the Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic, beating Texas-Pan American 64-53 (12/17) and Bethune-Cookman 63-49 at home (12/19) before losing to Alabama 81-73 (12/22) in the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas in the semifinals and falling to Purdue 72-70 (12/23) in the third-place game. Coupled with a 66-54 loss at Utah (12/15), the Bears had five games in nine days right after fall semester final exams. The Bears played twice a week and a half before Utah, losing 70-51 at Arkansas (12/3) and beat UNC Wilmington 73-66 at home (12/5). MSU opened its season with a 57-53 loss at Toledo, rolled past Harding (86-67) and UNC Greensboro (79-52) Nov. 16-17 to win the Price Cutter Classic at Hammons Student Center. The Bears then turned back Saint Louis (60-56) at home Nov. 21, and won at Winthrop (73-69) Nov. 25 before the two-game split to open December.

Last Game: The Bears jumped out to a quick early lead, lost their momentum, and couldn’t get it back in a 79-71 loss to defending MVC champion Southern Illinois Sunday in Carbondale, Ill., in the 2007-08 Valley opener for both teams. The Bears put up solid numbers in virutally all phases of the game, shooting 46 percent from the floor, 79 percent from the foul line, 61 percent from three-point range and controlling the rebounds 31-24. But, the Bears committed 18 turnovers to just eight for SIU and the resulting increased possessions resulted in eight more field goal attempts for SIU and the Salukis got four of them to fall for their final margin. The Bears lost their third straight game and slipped to 7-6 for the season while SIU evened its record at 6-6 while winning its 54th home conference start in its last 55 MVC outings in SIU Arena. MSU hit some early shots and jumped in front 10-4 and 16-9 at the start of the contest. SIU fought back and got ties at 17, 19, 21, 23, 25 and 27 before a late surge pushed the Salukis into a 37-29 halftime advantage. The SIU lead ranged from eight to 12 points most of the second half. The Bears got some late treys to get back within four at 75-71 in the final minute but could get no closer. Deven Mitchell hit 6-of-9 from the field and all 11 of his free throw attempts for a game-high 23 points while Justin Fuehrmeyer hit five treys and scored a career-high 19 points and Dale Lamberth added 13. Bryan Mullins scored 19 to lead SIU. Mitchell was also the game’s top rebounder with nine.

Bradley: Like the Bears, Bradley has played a challenging early-season schedule and brings and 7-6, 0-1 record into Wednesday’s game, as does Missouri State. And, like the Bears, the Braves have dropped their last three outings, falling by 20 at Butler, by 15 at home to Virginia Commonwealth and by 13 at home to UNI Saturday in MVC play. Bradley also has losses to Illinois-Chicago, Vanderbilt and #9 Michigan State with wins over Iowa, Iowa State, Wright State, Southeast Missouri State and Chicago Loyola. Daniel Ruffin, the nation’s leading active assist leader with 546 and a preseason all-MVC pick, has been slowed much of the non-conference schedule with an injury and finally underwent surgery for a sports hernia last Friday and has been lost to the Braves for an indefinite period. Guards Jeremy Crouch at 13.8 and Andrew Warren at 11.7 are the leading pointmakers in Ruffin’s absence, and Crouch is one of the top three-point shooters in Division I. Bradley, one of just 14 Division I teams to win 22 or more games and collect a postseason win each of the past two years, was 22-13 last year and advanced to the second round of the NIT.

 Missouri State is in its 96th season of intercollegiate basketball and the Bears are coming off a 22-11 season which saw them finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference regular season race with a 12-6 mark, reach the semifinals of the State Farm MVC Tourney and play in the National Invitation Tourney. It was the Bears’ third straight NIT appearance. This is the Bears’ third year as Missouri State (previously Southwest Missouri State).

  The four-game week of the Las Vegas Classic concluded a busy Missouri State non-league slate in which the Bears visited five states before Christmas, After the three-game homestand to open MVC action in Hammons, the Bears next venture onto the road Jan. 12 to visit high-flying Drake. The team’s only remaining non-conference game is a home game in an O’Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters test Feb. 22 or 23, with the opponent to be announced in early February.

Hammons Student Center Farewell, JQH here next year: The 2007-08 season is the Bears’ 32nd and final year of basketball in Hammons Student Center. The new $67 million, 11,000-seat JQH Arena is being constructed just east of HSC and will be ready for the opening of the 2008-09 Missouri State Bears and Lady Bears basketball season.

The Coaches: Barry Hinson (Oklahoma State, ’83) is 159-107 in his ninth season at Missouri State and 195-139 overall in his 11th year as a college head coach. He’s 10-6 vs. BU. Hinson is fifth on the all-time MSU coaching win list, needs five wins to catch Eddie Matthews for fourth, and is the sixth Bears’ coach to post 100 wins.

Jim Les (Bradley, ’86) is 91-79 in his sixth year at Bradley and overall as a college head coach. He’s 3-7 vs. MSU.

Series Record: Missouri State leads, 24-13. The Bears swept Bradley last year and have won three straight from the Braves. Bradley is the only Valley school the Bears had never played at the time MSU joined the MVC in 1990. Bradley is also the only MVC school ahead of Missouri State on the all-time Division I wins list. Bradley is 26th and MSU is 27th. Missouri State is the only current Valley member against which Bradley does not own the all-time series advantage.

Affiliation: Missouri State is in its 26th year in Division I and 18th in the MVC. The Bears are 495-287 in Div. I and 183-121 in regular season Valley play since 1990. MSU has been second five times and third five times in its best MVC finishes. MSU had eight straight 20-win, postseason tourney teams (1986-93), with three NIT clubs and five NCAA teams in that span. The Bears returned to postseason play in the 1997 NIT, and in 1999 had their first NCAA trip since 1992, advancing to the Sweet 16. The Bears upset Wisconsin and Tennessee and fell to top-ranked Duke in the East regional semifinals. MSU got to the second round of the NIT in 2000 and 2005 and reached the NIT quarterfinals in 1986, 1993 and 2006.


All-Time: The UNI game 1/11/04 was the 1,400th win in Bears’ basketball history. The 1,300th was 11/18/98 at Missouri and the Bears’ 2,000th game was 1/13/99 vs. Bradley. This is the 96th season of Bear basketball. MSU is 1,479-794 (.650) all-time; 27th among Division I schools in all-time wins and 13th in all-time winning percentage. The Bears have had 76 winning seasons, 15 losing years, four seasons at .500, 26 years with 20 or more wins, and 29 postseason teams. Missouri State first played intercollegiate basketball in 1908-09. This is the 100th year since the Bears first played but there were not teams in the 1911-12, 1912-13, 1943-44 or 1944-45 seasons.

n League honors for ex-Chiefs: In addition to Ahearn’s all-MVC first team selection last season, Bears’ junior forward Deven Mitchell was named the Valley’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2006-07 and MSU junior guard Spencer Laurie was selected as the Newcomer of the Year. Tyler Chaney drew all-MVC honorable mention and Dale Lamberth joined Mitchell on the all-bench team.

nAhearn to NBA Development League:

Blake Ahearn, the all-time leading free throw shooter in Division I history, has begun his first professional season with the National Basketball Association Development League Dakota Wizards, Bismarck, N.D.

  Ahearn, a fourth round pick in the 10-round D League draft, joins a Dakota team which is the reigning D League champ. Ahearn has had four 20-point games, is averaging 14.0 for the team’s first 14 (9-5) regular season games and is at .963 (54/54) from the foul line.

 Ahearn led MSU in scoring and was an MVC all-league first teamer as a junior and senior. He set school and Valley records for consecutive free throws made with 60 in a row once each in his freshman and sophomore seasons. His .975 free throw percentage (117/120) as a freshman set a new Division I single season percentage mark, and his final figure of .946 (435/460) established a new NCAA career record. Ahearn graduated from MSU in August with a degree in marketing.

22 straight years: The Missouri State men’s and women’s basketball teams have had notable Division I success, with one or both having advanced to postseason play 22 years in a row. The men’s team played in the NIT in 1986, 1991, 1993, 1997, 2000, 2005, 2006 and 2007 and in the NCAA in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1999. The women’s team was in the NCAA from 1991 through 1996, 1998 through 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2006; in the WNIT 2002 and 2005, winning the 2005 WNIT title.


Personnel:MSU presently has a 15-player squad, with seven lettermen and two starters back from last year. Squadman Ryan Jehle is a redshirt freshman. Chris Cooks is a junior transfer from Redlands (Okla.) JC, Wade Knapp is a junior transfer from Dodge City (Kan.) CC, and, of the four true freshmen, Kyle Weems and David Cline are redshirting this season. Guard Tomas Brock, a freshman from Mt. Vernon, Mo., had been participating as a redshirt but joined the active roster to add more depth in the backcourt following the injury to Lamont Austin. Transfer Will Creekmore has just joined the squad and will be eligible in December of 2008 (see below).

nAustin out: Lamont Austin sustained a broken bone in his right foot in practice Dec. 9 and will be out for the rest of the 2007-08 season. Austin, a freshman guard from Topeka, Kan., played in two of the Bears’ first seven games, seeing a total of 14 minutes of action with no points. Coach Barry Hinson indicates Missouri State will seek a medical hardship for Austin at the end of the year.

nLamberth graduates: Senior forward Dale Lamberth was one of 23 Missouri State student-athletes in a graduating class of 1,264 who received MSU degrees at Fall Semester Commencement exercises Dec. 14 at Hammons Student Center. Lamberth, a recreation and leisure studies major, was with the Bears in Utah when his degree was conferred.

nCreekmore transfers: Freshman forward-center Will Creekmore has left the basketball program at Boston University to transfer to Missouri State for the start of the 2008 spring semester. Creekmore, a 6-foot-9, 235-pounder from Tulsa (Okla.) Thomas Edison High, will sit out a full year to regain his athletic eligibility and will have three seasons to compete for the Bears when he becomes eligible after the 2008 fall semester at MSU.

  Creekmore played in four of Boston’s first eight games this season. He averaged 12 minutes a game and totaled 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Terriers of coach Dennis Wolff.

  At Edison, Creekmore was a four-year varsity starter for the Eagles of head coach Michael Parish. Creekmore won all-state honors as a senior. He was a two-time Tulsa World All-Metro pick and a three-time all-district and all-conference selection. He averaged 23 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks per game his final year, shooting 68 percent from the field and 57 percent from three-point range. He was the state’s leading scorer and rebounder in Class 5A as a senior and the state’s top rebounder as a junior.

nBears add three prep standouts: A Missouri prepster and two high schoolers from out of state have committed to join the Missouri State basketball program for 2008-09.

  The trio includes Damen Bell-Holter, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound center from Ketchikan (Alaska) High; Ken Holdman, a 6-foot, 170-pound guard from Tulsa (Okla.) East Central High; and Isaiah Rhine, a 6-10, 225-pound center from Versailles (Mo.) High.

  Bell-Holter is in his third season as a starter for the Ketchikan Kings of Coach Doug Nausid. KHS knocked off Juneau last year in the regional finals to go to the state tournament and Bell-Holter was a first team all-conference choice in the Alaska Southeast League.

 Holdman is a two-year starter at East Central for Coach Brian Morgan and his team also reached the state tournament in 2007, losing in the state finals to Carl Albert in Class 5A. East Central also won the Green County Conference title and Holdman was a second team all-conference, second team all-district and Oklahoma all-star selection.

  Rhine is also looking to make his senior season his third year as a starter for the Versailles Tigers of coach Kent Chamberlain. Rhine won all-conference, all-district, and all-area laurels as a sophomore and junior and was a Class 3 all-state second team selection last year. He has also played AAU basketball for two summers for the Missouri Titans.

nPrice Cutter History: The Bears’ win in this year’s Price Cutter Classic was MSU’s fifth in a row and 15th in the 21-year history of the event. MSU is 36-6 all-time in Price Cutter play, with 15 titles and six runner-up finishes (1987-90-93-99-01-02). The Bears won the meet five years in a row (1994-98) in their previous longest stretch of titles, and matched that with this year’s classic win (2003-07). Blake Ahearn, Tyler Chaney and Nathan Bilyeu last year joined Ben Kandlbinder (94-98) and Ryan Bettenhausen (95-99) as the only Bears to play on four Price Cutter title teams and Deven Mitchell and Drew Richards joined that select group this year. The selection of Richards to the all-tourney team this year was a repeat for him from last year. Kandlbinder is the only player to be on the all-tourney team four times and Scott Brakebill (99-00-01) was the only other three-time pick until Ahearn (04-05-06) and Bilyeu (04-05-06) last year. Ahearn (04-05), Kandlbinder (94-95) and Danny Moore (96-98) are the only players to win tourney MVP honors twice.

nMVP Deven: Deven Mitchell had new career highs of 24 points in the first game of the Price Cutter Classic and then matched that total the second night. He averaged 8.0 rebounds for the weekend, had five steals and five blocked shots and hit .727 (16/22) from the field and .889 (16/18) from the line to dominate all-tournament selection and Most Valuable Player voting in the meet.

nBusy December: Although their 7-5 record through December didn’t match up to the 10-2 records the Bears had after a dozen games each of the past two seasons, the Bruins have faced a challenging early schedule, including two SEC schools, one Big 10 team and a Mountain West club. The schedule has also been somewhat uneven, with eight days off after the Winthrop game, two games in three days, 10 days off after the UNC Wilmington game and then five games in the next nine days. The Bears remain unbeaten at home but have dropped three of four road starts and both their neutral site games last week in the Las Vegas Classic.

nPlayin’ ’em close: Close was the order of the day for the semifinal and final day games in Las Vegas. The Bears’ game vs. Alabama was tied six times with 17 lead changes and the game vs. Purdue game was tied 16 times with 11 lead changes. All four tourney games in Las Vegas were tied at the half. MSU-Alabama was tied 31-31 at the break and the Bears led with two minutes to play before 81-73 loss. Iowa State-Purdue was tied 37-37 at half before ISU came back for 83-80 win in the other semifinal. Bears-Purdue was deadlocked 32-32 at half before PU claimed a 72-70 win in the third place game, and Iowa State and Alabama were tied 40-40 at the half in the championship game before the Tide got away late and won, 83-68.

nBanged-Up Bears: The first three games of the Las Vegas Classic saw the Bears lose a starting player within the first 10 minutes of each contest. In each case, the player was through for the evening but came back to start the next game. Forward Dale Lamberth had a right side muscle injury early in the Texas-Pan American game but started two nights later vs. Bethune-Cookman. Center Drew Richards suffered a partially dislocated jaw early in the Bethune-Cookman game but came back to start three days later against Alabama. And, Lamberth suffered a cut to his head early in the Alabama game and had to have a dozen stitches to close the wound but came back to start the next night vs. Purdue.

nVegas Ofer: Don’t ask Bears’ coach Barry Hinson to schedule another trip to Las Vegas any time soon. The Bears’ 0-2 venture to Nevada this season came after an 0-3 finish in a Las Vegas tournament in 2001-02. All five losses were single-digit setbacks, two were in overtime, and the closest games--a one-point OT loss and a two-point loss--came at the hands of the same school; Purdue.

nRoad wins: If the first round of MVC firing is any indication, the Valley race is going to be a two-month adventure. In last weekend’s first full slate of games, Drake, UNI, Illinois State and Indiana State scored respective road wins at Wichita, Bradley, Creighton and Evansville. The Bears were unable to make it a five-game sweep for road teams in their loss at SIU Sunday. Missouri State is now 1-6 away from home this season.

nShootin’ the treys: In connecting on a .616 (11/18) percentage from three-point range for the game at SIU (Dec. 30) while hitting 8-of-23 two-point tries, the Bears had more threes than twos in a contest for just the third time in 665 games since the three-point field goal was added in 1986-87. The other such occasions included Missouri State school records of 14 threes (with 12 two-pointers) at UNC Wilmington 12/9/06 and 14 threes (with 11 two-pointers) at Drake 2/18/95.

nFuehrmeyer stays hot: Guard Justin Fuehrmeyer continued his recent long-range hot streak for the Bears at SIU, hitting a career-best five treys for a career-high 19 points. He’s now hit .560 (13/25) from beyond the arc in his last four games after hitting just one three in the team’s first nine outings. Fuehrmeyer opened up from long range with the best week of his young Missouri State career in the four games of the Las Vegas Classic. After missing his first nine three-point tries of the season and hitting 1 of his first 17, he connected on a pair vs. UTPA and three each against Alabama and Purdue in Las Vegas for a .500 (8/16) shooting week from long range. His 13 points vs. Purdue were a career-high at the time. Fuehrmeyer’s points came at key spots as well, with his deep three from the right wing with 2:21 left in the Alabama game giving the Bears their last lead, while his two free throws with half a minute left against Purdue gave the Bears their last advantage in the game against the Boilermakers.

nDeven at the line: Forward Deven Mitchell has made solid and steady improvement at the foul line throughout his Missouri State career, hiking his season figure more than 50 percentage points each year he’s played for the Bears. Mitchell had a string of 24 free throws made in a row at one point in the 2006-07 season, 12th best string on record for Missouri State and one of only three streaks on the top dozen for anyone other than all-time NCAA free throw accuracy leader Blake Ahearn. Mitchell had a string of 18 free throws made in a row over five games (Dec. 3-23) before he missed two (of 13) vs. PU. He hit 11-of-11 at SIU (12/30) and his current string is 16 in a row made. He’s still the Bears’ runaway leader from the line at for the season at .896 (59/67), and, equally important, he’s easily the Bears’ volume leader for attempts from the line. Mitchell’s yearly MSU free throw stats:


2003-04 34 51 .667

2004-05 33 46 .717

2006-07 109 135 .807

2007-08 69 77 .896

Totals 245 309 .793

nIn the Valley: The Bears have been strong finishers in Missouri Valley Conference play the past three years, and, have had quick starts the past two seasons. Last year, the Bears jumped out to a 3-1 league record, were 5-5 after 10 MVC games, and finished 12-6. In the 2005-06 season, MSU was 4-1 to start, slipped to 5-5, and again rebounded to come home at 12-6. In 2004-05, the Bears lagged at 1-6 in the early going but finished strong for a final 10-8 league record.

 Missouri State has had four 12-6 finishes in its first 17 seasons in the Valley and the best the Bears have been in MVC play was a 13-5 mark in 1991-92 in Charlie Spoonhour's final season at the MSU helm and a 13-5 mark in 1999-00 in Barry Hinson's first year at Missouri State. In 17 Valley seasons, the Bears have had a winning conference record 13 times, finished .500 twice and been below .500 twice. Missouri State has had 14 first-division finishes in 17 league races, finishing five times, third five times, fourth twice, fifth twice, sixth twice and seventh once. Missouri State has never won the MVC regular season title, although the Missouri State program owns 19 conference crowns in its basketball history.

nClose games in Vegas: The Bears’ two games in Las Vegas had a number of similarities. Against Alabama Saturday, the Bears enjoyed near double-digit leads in both halves of a game that was tied six times and saw 17 lead changes. The Bears also had a good first-half lead over Purdue in a game which had 16 ties and 11 lead changes. Against Alabama, the Bears last led 71-70 on a trey by Justin Fuehrmeyer with 2:21 left but the Crimson Tide took advantage of a key turnover and some late free throws to win by eight. Chris Cooks and Shane Laurie led the Bears with 13 points each and starting forward Dale Lamberth played just seven minutes before an injury put him out of action for the rest of the contest. The Bears and Boilermakers battled throughout their contest and a long trey by Cooks got the Bears back even at 68-68 with a minute to play. Fuehrmeyer added a pair of free throws for a 70-69 margin with half a minute left but Purdue got a bucket and a late free throw and the Bears missed a game-winning shot attempt just ahead of the final buzzer. Deven Mitchell had 19 points, Lamberth came back wtih 17 and Fuehrmeyer added a career-high 13 for the Bears as they lost two in a row for the first time all year.

nGuarding the rock: Bear guards Spencer Laurie, Shane Laurie and Justin Fuehrmeyer have an excellent assist:turnover ratio through 13 games, highlighted by a 56:26 ratio for Fuehrmeyer. Spencer Laurie, coming off a year with a 141:71 ratio last season when he was MVC Newcomer of the Year, is at 43:32 this season while Shane Laurie is at 26:25.

nBalanced Bears: The Bears’ front line of Deven Mitchell, Dale Lamberth and Drew Richards ran out to an early lead on the team in scoring and rebounding this season and Mitchell has stayed steady with Lamberth and Richards slowed physically in recent outings. Richards still leads the team in shooting at .603 with Mitchell right behind at .575. Mitchell is setting the pace in scoring (15.3) and rebounding (6.1) with Richards second on the boards and Lamberth right behind. Lamberth is the Bears’ other double figure scorer at 11.2. The three were all near-unanimous choices to the all-tourney team Nov. 16-17 after the Bears’ 27-point win over UNCG in the title game. The three combined to average 56 points and 18.5 rebounds in the wins over Harding and UNCG and combined to shoot .667 (40/60) among them for the two games. But, they had help. Guards Shane Laurie and Spencer Laurie and Justin Fuehrmeyer were all among the tournament leaders in multiple stat categories with Fuehrmeyer leading the meet in assists. His 12 in the title game vs. UNCG were the most for a Bear since William Fontleroy had a dozen in 1997-98 vs. Illinois State. Spencer Laurie and Fuehrmeyer combined for 21 assists and just three turnovers in the final game.

nClimbing the Charts: Some veteran Bears are moving up the Missouri State career charts in various statistical categories. Deven Mitchell and Drew Richards have become the 30th and 31st Missouri State players to participate in 100 or more career games. Mitchell’s now at 105 with Richards at 103 and both have will reach the all-time top 10 in the regular season if they continue to play in all games. Mitchell is on a pace to become the 27th player in Missouri State history to reach 1,000 career points. He’s now at 864. Mitchell has already climbed to seventh in career steals with 136 and needs six more to climb to fourth place which would move him ahead of MSU Hall of Famers Winston Garland, Brian Smith and Randy Towe. Drew Richards is in fourth in career blocked shots with 113 and is a dozen behind third-place Ricky Johnson. Dale Lamberth has 78 career three-pointers, and needs three more to move into a tie for 10th place on that career list.

nHains goes for #500: Art Hains, veteran Bears’ radio play-by-play voice on KTXR-FM, is still shooting for the 500th Bears’ victory of his Missouri State announcing career. Hains went into the recent tournament in Las Vegas with a 499-299 W-L record for announcing 798 MSU games and the Purdue game was Hains’s 800th Missouri State broadcast. Wednesday’s game with Bradley will be Art’s fourth bid for a 500th win for Missouri State in his tenure at the microphone. Hains originally did Bears’ games from 1977 to 1981 and returned to Springfield and Missouri State in 1985-86 so he’s in his 27th year covering the Bears. He’s part of a veteran quartet of long-time play-by-play voices in the Valley, including Mike Reis of Southern Illinois, Mike Kennedy of Wichita State and Dave Snell of Bradley.

nPRIDE in Pasadena: The year 2008 started out in great fashion for Missouri State on another front as Jerry Hoover’s Pride Marching Band was the lead band in the 119th Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day. The 300-member unit was in its second trip to the Rose Bowl festivities in California (its first was in 1995) and the much-honored Missouri State band has a long list of additional credits, including the New York City Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade three times, the Orange Bowl Parade in Miami, National Football League games in four cities and two trips to perform in London, England.

nHot Start for Drew: After opening the season with a perfect 8/8 shooting night from the field at Toledo (11/10), Drew Richards hit his first two shots vs. Harding (11/16) to reach 10 in a row.Richards came back vs. UNCG (11/17) with another perfect night at 7/7 and hit his first two vs. Saint Louis (11/20) to run that streak to nine in a row before he missed a shot. He still leads the team from the floor at .603.

 Richards’s six blocked shots vs. Harding were his career high, and most for a Bear since Danny Moore had six in two different games as a senior in 1998-99. Danny Moore has the career record in blocks at 167

nFinding the "D": The Bears held five of their first 10 foes below 57 points and no opponent scored more than 70 in that span with MSU owning a 60.5 defensive average through 10 games. Since then, however, Alabama has touched the Bears for 81 points, Purdue scored 72 and Southern Illinois came away with 79 as the defensive average has slipped up to 64.4.

n31 games: With their participation in the exempt Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic plus a full slate of non-conference games and O’Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters game in late February, the Bears are headed for their first 31-game regular season ever. In the past, the Bears have had 30 regular season games three times, including last year. Counting postseason play, the Bears have played 30 or more games in a season 18 times prior to this year, with the record for most games in a season coming in 34-game campaigns in 1986-87 (28-6), 1990-91 (22-12) and 1999-00 (23-11).

nBears picked 3rd: The Bears were picked third in the 2007-08 MVC preseason poll. With their third-place finish last year, the Bears have come in better that their preseason prediction four years in a row. Deven Mitchell, last year’s MVC Sixth Man of the Year, was on the preseason all-Valley team.



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