Bears go after first Valley road win at Evansville Saturday



The Missouri State Bears start a stretch of two straight Missouri Valley Conference road games when they travel to Evansville Saturday (Jan. 26). The Bears then play in a nationally-televised (ESPNU) game at Wichita State Jan. 29 before their next home matchup in Hammons Student Center, a Feb. 2 meeting with Illinois State. The Bears are trying to climb above the .500 mark in league play for the first time this season as they have alternately lost and won every league game thus far and are 4-1 at home to go with an 0-3 road record for an overall 4-4 conference mark. This is the first of two meetings between the Bears and Purple Aces this season. The Bears opened MVC play at SIU and lost 79-71, came home for three straight and beat Bradley 91-80, lost to Creighton 50-49 and beat Wichita State 71-47, went to Drake and lost 65-54, beat Indiana State at home 65-44, lost at UNI 70-55 and beat SIU at home 63-62.

  The Bears opened their Valley slate after six busy weeks of non-league action. The Bears played right up to a short Christmas break when they split 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: Two free throws by Dale Lamberth with 1.7 seconds left on the clock put the cap on a game with no daylight between the two teams for the last 26 minutes of the contest as the Bears slipped past Southern Illinois 63-62 in MVC action Wednesday in Hammons. Trailing by a point, the Bears called their final time out with 10.8 seconds left. When Justin Fuehrmeyer missed a shot from the right, Lamberth collared the rebound under the goal to the left. As Lamberth went back up, he was fouled by SIU’s Bryan Mullins. Lamberth calmly planted both free throws and then intercepted SIU’s inbounds pass at midcourt just ahead of the final horn to seal the issue. The Bears moved to 10-1 at home and 11-9 overall while dropping SIU to 9-10. Both teams balanced their Valley records at 4-4. After an uneven start, the game was a chess match. SIU jumped out to a 10-0 lead but the Bears roared to life and forged ahead for the first time at 20-19 with 5:49 left in the half. Missouri State stretched that lead to 23-19, SIU tied it at 23-23, and the game saw nine more ties and 22 lead changes in the last 25 minutes. Over those last 25 minutes, neither team led by more than three and most of the time it was tied or a one-point game. SIU shot well all night, hitting 60 percent from the field the first half with a final .537 (22/41) figure for the game. The Bears didn’t, finishing at just .370 (20/54) for the contest, but pounded the glass for 18 offensive rebounds and a 36-21 overall rebound margin. It was the Bears’ second biggest rebound bulge in 20 games this season. Lamberth paced the Bears with nine boards and Chris Cooks had seven. Both teams were effective from the foul line with SIU at .867 (13/15) and MSU at .833 (20/24). Lamberth got 16 of his game-high 24 points in the final half and had help from Chris Cooks with 12 points and Spencer Laurie with 11. SIU was led by veterans Matt Shaw with 18, Mullins with 12 and Randal Falker with 10.

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 163-110 in his ninth season at MSU and 199-133 in his 11th year overall as a college head coach. He’s 14-3 vs.UE. Hinson is fifth on the all-time MSU coaching win list, needs one win to catch Eddie Matthews for fourth, needs one win for 200 as a college head coach and is the sixth head coach to post 100 wins at MSU.

Marty Simmons (Indiana, ’87) is 5-13 in his first year at UE and 103-86 in his seventh year overall as a college head coach, including one year at Wartburg and five seasons at SIU-Ewardsville. He’s 0-0 vs. MSU.

Series Record: MSU leads, 23-20. The Bears rolled to a 106-54 home win over the Aces last year and lost 63-56 12 days later at Evansville, a 59-point turnaround. That was only the Bears’ second loss in their last 14 meetings with Evansville, going back to 2001. The teams’ first meeting was in the championship game of the 1959 NCAA Division II Tournament in Evansville. The Bears are 8-13 in Roberts Stadium.

Evansville: It’s been rough sledding in Marty Simmons’s first year back at UE after having been an Aces’ assistant for 11 seasons. After dropping its first three, Evansville won five of seven to get to .500 at 5-5, but has yet to collect a Valley win and is 4-5 at home. Returning starters Shy Ely at 13.1 and Jason Holsinger at 12.7 are the Aces’ two double-figure scorers. Holsinger is one of the nation’s best three-point shooters (.495) and Ely leads UE in rebounding at 5.3.

Affiliation: Missouri State is in its 26th year in Division I and 18th in the MVC. The Bears are 498-290 in Div. I and 186-124 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 1,482-797 (.649) all-time; 27th among Division I schools in wins and 13th in all-time win percentage. The Bears have had 76 winning seasons, 15 losing years, four .500 seasons, 26 years with 20 or more wins, and 29 postseason teams. Missouri State first played basketball in 1908-09. This is the 100th year since the Bears first played but there were no teams in 1911-12, 1912-13, 1943-44 or 1944-45.

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, is in his first pro season with the National Basketball Association Development League Dakota Wizards.

  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 four 20-point games, is averaging 13.2 for the team’s first 24 (16-8) games and is at .944 (84/89) from the foul line.

 Ahearn led MSU in scoring and was an all-MVC first teamer as a junior and senior. He set school and Valley records for consecutive free throws with 60 in a row once each as a freshman and sophomore. His .975 FT work (117/120) as a freshman set a 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 14-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 three true freshmen, Kyle Weems and David Cline are redshirting. Tomas Brock, a freshman from Mt. Vernon, Mo., had redshirtting but joined the active roster to add more depth in the backcourt following the Dec. 9 injury to Lamont Austin. Transfer Will Creekmore has just joined the squad and will be eligible in December of 2008 (see below).

nAustin quits: Lamont Austin dropped from the squad Jan. 3 and left Missouri State. Austin, a freshman guard from Topeka, Kan., played in two of the Bears’ first seven games, seeing a total of 14 minutes vs. Arkansas and UNC Wilmington. He had two rebounds and no points. Austin suffered a broken bone in his right foot in practice Dec. 9 and was expected to be out of action for the rest of the season.

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 2008 spring semester. Creekmore, a 6-foot-9, 235-pounder from Tulsa (Okla.) Edison High, will sit out a year to regain his athletic eligibility and will have three seasons to compete 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. 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.

nStifling the Sycamores: The Bears logged their best 40-minute defensive effort of the season in a 65-44 home win over Indiana State (1/15). The 12 points ISU got the first half, the 44 it had for the game and the Sycamores’ final .269 (14/52) FG% were all the best defensive efforts of the season for MSU. ISU got one basket the first 10 minutes of the game, two FGs the first 13 minutes and only five (in 27 tries) the first half. The Bears led 15-2 midway in the period and 32-12 at halftime. Spencer Laurie had 12 points, six boards, seven assists and six steals and Dex Manswell had career highs in points and rebounds with nine each. Indiana State is the only MVC school to have never won in Hammons. The Sycamores are 0-18 in HSC since MSU joined the Valley in 1990.

nBanged-Up Bears: Drew Richards (mono) and Shane Laurie (injury) did not suit up for the Wichita State contest (1/8) in the latest collection of ailments affecting Bear regulars. Laurie was back at Drake (1/12) but Richards is still out. Laurie then sustained a second concussion Jan. 21 in practice and is out again.

nBears come up big on national TV: The Bears were on fire from the opening tip and in charge for 40 minutes on their way to a nationally-televised (ESPN2) 71-47 MVC win over Wichita State (1/8) in Hammons. Senior forward Dale Lamberth, coming off the bench for the first time this season after 15 straight starting assignments, lit up the Shockers as he hit 10-of-18 from the field, including 6-of-9 from three-point range, for a career-high 27 points. MSU reached double digits in three-point field goals (11/23) for the third time in four games. The Bears further aided their cause with a perfect 10-of-10 from the foul line. The Bears got seven treys the first half as they ran out to leads of 13-0, 16-2 and 29-10. MSU led 36-22 at the half, expanded that to 20 points four minutes into the second half, and led by as many as 27 three times late in the contest.

nDale’s big night: The 27 points by Dale Lamberth vs. Wichita State (1/8) marked the highest point total for a Missouri State player since Blake Ahearn had 32 vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (12/3/05) and the most points for a Bears’ non-starter since Allen Phillips came off the bench to score 28 vs. Creighton in the semifinals of the MVC Tourney (2/28/99).

nLowest in HSC: The 15-point first half against Creighton (1/5) was the Bears’ lowest scoring half in a game since they got 14 points at Purdue on Dec. 23, 1991, and their lowest scoring half in their 32-year history in HSC, covering 486 regular season games. The Bears’ previous Hammons scoring low for a half was 19 against Arkansas on Dec. 18, 1983.

nMakin’ the freebies: The Bears hit all seven of their free throws at Drake (1/12) after a perfect 10-of-10 from the foul line vs. Wichita State (1/8). It marked the first time since Jan. 21-26, 1985, vs. UWGB and Cleveland State that a Bears’ team put two perfect free throw shooting games back-to-back. Since going 8-of-23 from the foul line in the loss to Alabama in Las Vegas, the Bears have been shooting free throws at an .807 (130/161) pace over their last nine ballgames, hiking their overall free throw accuracy figure to a season-high .718.

nShootin’ the treys: In hitting .616 (11/18) from three-point range at SIU (12/30) 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 MSU 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. The Bears came back with 10 treys in the win over Bradley (1/2), marking their first two games with 10 or more threes this season and the first time they’d put double-digit treys back-to-back in games since doing it twice last year. The Bears popped in 11 threes vs. Wichita State to make it three of four games with double-digit threes, and had nine vs. Indiana State so they just missed making it four of six games.

nNo HSC clean slate: The loss to Creighton was the Bears’ first home defeat of the season ended their last hope for a perfect season in Hammons in what is their final year in HSC before moving to JQH Arena in 2008-09.

nFuehrmeyer hot: Justin Fuehrmeyer had a hot streak from long range, hitting .469 (15/32) for six games in late December and early January after hitting just one three his first nine outings. At SIU (12/30), he hit a career-best five treys for a career-high 19 points. Fuehrmeyer opened up from long range with the best week of his young Missouri State career in the Las Vegas Classic. After missing his first nine three-point tries of the season and hitting 1 of his first 17, he hit two 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. Fury’s points came at key spots, 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 vs. Purdue gave the Bears their last advantage in that game.

nDeven at the line: Deven Mitchell has made big improvement at the foul line over his MSU career, hiking his season figure more than 50 percentage points each year at MSU. Mitchell hit 24 in a row in 2006-07, 12th best string for Missouri State and one of only three streaks on the top dozen for anyone other than all-time NCAA FT accuracy leader Blake Ahearn. Mitchell made 18 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 9-of-9 vs. Bradley (1/2) and his first two vs. Creighton (1/2) for 27 in a row before a miss. He’s still the Bears’ runaway leader from the line this season at .896, and, equally important, he’s easily the Bears’ volume leader for FT attempts. He’s inching his way toward the season and career top 10 in free throw percentage. His current string is two made in a row. (listings attached). Mitchell’s yearly MSU free throw stats:


2003-04 34 51 .667

2004-05 33 46 .717

2006-07 109 135 .807

2007-08 103 115 .896

Totals 279 347 .804

nCold Sunday: The outside temperature in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Sunday was barely above zero and the Bears were almost as cold with their second-worst field goal shooting night of the season in a 70-55 MVC loss to the UNI Panthers. UNI snapped a four-game losing streak and climbed to 11-7 for the year. The Bears hit just 29 percent from the field the first half, improved only to 33 percent the last half, and finished the game at .311 (19/61). Their only lower percentage this season was a .289 night against Creighton Jan. 5. UNI was as hot as the Bears were cold, hitting 50 percent the first half and 67 percent the second half for a game figure of .575 (23/40). The Panthers also hit 15 of their last 17 free throws in the contest. UNI dominated the boards, 41-28. The Bears committed a season-low eight turnovers in the contest and came up with nine steals while UNI was turning the ball over 19 times. UNI put five players in double figures in scoring, led by Eric Coleman’s 15. Laurie had 13 and Deven Mitchell 12 for the Bears and Mitchell and Dale Lamberth got seven rebounds each.

nIn the Valley: The Bears have had four 12-6 finishes in 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 MSU 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.

nBalanced Bears: The Bears’ front line of Deven Mitchell, Dale Lamberth and Drew Richards ran out to an early lead in team scoring and rebounding. The three were all near-unanimous picks 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) for the two games. But, they had help. Guards Shane 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.

nSpencer finding the range: Spencer Laurie has caught fire of late and filled a bunch of columns on the stat sheet vs. Indiana State, hitting four treys for 12 points with six rebounds, seven assists and a career-best six steals. After coming back with three treys at UNI and two vs. SIU, Laurie is shooting .481 (25/52) from three over his last eight games.

nMinutes: The Bears are so balanced that no player is averaging as many as 30 minutes a game. Since minutes were first recorded in 1976-77, one or more players averaged 30 or more minutes every year through 2003-04. Anthony Shavies was the leader in 2004-05 at 28.3, and Blake Ahearn was the only player to average more than 30 the last two years.

nClimbing the Charts: Three Bears are moving up MSU career stat charts. Deven Mitchell and Drew Richards are the 30th and 31st MSU players with 100 or more games. Mitchell’s at 112 with Richards at 105 and both could reach the top 10 this season. Mitchell is closing in to be the 27th Bear with 1,000 points. He’s at 947 and is fourth in steals (146). Mitchell is the 29th player with 500 career rebounds and is bidding to be the 14th player with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. Drew Richards is fourth in blocked shots (114). Dale Lamberth’s six treys vs. Wichita State (1/2) pushed his total to 87.

nHains gets #500: Art Hains, Bears’ radio play-by-play voice on KTXR-FM, got the 500th Bears’ victory of his Missouri State announcing career Jan. 2 vs. Bradley. Hains went to Las Vegas with a 499-299 W-L record for 798 MSU games and the Purdue game was Hains’s 800th Missouri State broadcast. Hains originally did Bear games from 1977 to 1981 and returned to Springfield and MSU in 1985-86 so he’s in his 27th year covering the Bears. He’s part of a quartet of long-time play-by-play voices in the Valley, including Mike Reis of SIU (28th year), Mike Kennedy of Wichita State (29th) and Dave Snell of Bradley (29th).

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 Jan. 1. 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, National Football League games in four cities and two trips to perform in London, England.

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. Alabama then touched the Bears for 81 points, Purdue scored 72, SIU got 79 and Bradley hit 80 as the defensive average went to 64.5. It came back down to 62.4 with Creighton scoring 50, WSU getting 47, Drake at 65 and Indiana State at 44 before UNI collected 70 in Cedar Falls.

n31 games: With their play in the exempt Las Vegas Classic plus a full non-league slate and a 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, with the record for most games in a season (34) in three years: 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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