Bears Visit Southern Illinois Wednesday for Key Valley Matchup



 Missouri State (15-7, 5-6) at Southern Illinois (12-9, 4-7)

Wednesday, Feb. 3, 7:05 p.m. (Mediacom)

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The Game: Cuonzo Martin's Bears head to Carbondale, Ill., Wednesday to do battle with the Southern Illinois Salukis in a key Missouri Valley Conference game for both squads.

 The Bears are 4-5 on the road this season, but have dropped four straight contests away from JQH Arena since a double-figure win at Evansville on Dec. 29. In those four road contests, MSU has allowed 80.5 points per game, while opponents are shooting a collective .537 from the field in that span.

 Both the Bears and Salukis are coming off tough 55-54 home losses over the weekend. The Bears fell to No. 25 UNI on Saturday afternoon, a game the Bears led 54-50 with 1:38 to play, and SIU lost to Wichita State on Sunday.

 This will be the first of two games between the two squads over the next week with SIU coming to JQH Arena for a return engagement on Feb. 10 (7:05 p.m.).

The Series: The series between the Bears and Salukis dates back to 1957 with SIU holding a 37-26 all-time lead. Southern Illinois has won six of the last seven meetings overall and has won 9 straight games at SIU Arena against Missouri State. The last MSU win in Carbondale came on Feb. 28, 2000 (62-59) behind 14 points by Kevin Ault.

The Coaches: Missouri State head coach Cuonzo Martin (Purdue, 2000) is 26-27 (.491) overall, 6-16 on the road and 20-10 (.679) at JQH Arena in his second season at MSU and overall. He is 0-2 against SIU, 8-21 in MVC games, 2-7 in February, and 7-4 on Wednesdays.

 He spent eight seasons as an assistant coach and associate head coach at Purdue (2000-08) where he was a standout performer for coach Gene Keady from 1991-95.

 Martin (38), who became MSU's 16th head basketball coach on April 1, 2008, played professional basketball for four years, including two stops with the Milwaukee Bucks and one with the Vancouver Grizzlies of the NBA. He spent most of his professional playing time in the Continental Basketball Association and in Europe, leading Grand Rapids in scoring three seasons and leading the Felize Scandone team in Avellino, Italy in 1997. Originally from East St. Louis, Ill., he scored 20 points against the Bears as a Purdue player on 12/22/92 and helped Purdue to a 4-0 mark against MSU as a player and coach.

 SIU coach Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois, 1995) is 121-66 (.647) in his sixth season at SIU and overall. The Salukis' sideline boss is 7-4 all-time against the Bears, including a 5-0 mark at SIU Arena.

The Ten Count: Ten Missouri State quick facts relating to today's game:

  • The Bears will host Nevada on Feb. 20 at 2:05 p.m. in the annual BracketBusters event. MSU, which is 3-3 all-time in the BracketBusters, will play before a national TV audience on ESPN2 against the WAC Wolfpack.
  • Missouri State's 8 turnovers against Northern Iowa on Saturday marked the fifth time this season the Bears have finished a game with single-figure turnovers. Over the last seven games, the Bears are averaging just 10.1 turnovers.
  • Southern Illinois is one of three MVC teams, along with Northern Iowa (0-4) and Creighton (0-3) that second-year Missouri State head coach Cuonzo Martin has not defeated.
  • Missouri State has reached double-digits in offensive rebounds in seven straight games and 14 total games this season. Over the last seven contest, the Bears have outrebounded 6 opponents and grabbed 14.9 offensive boards.
  • MSU's bench has outscored opponent reserves in 18-of-22 games this season and is averaging 29.4 points the last 7 games. For the season, Bears' reserves have scored 514 points (32.2 percent of team's total points).
  • The Bears are 11-0 this season when shooting at a better percentage than their opponents. MSU has fired at a .500 clip or better five times this season (5-0), but just twice in league play.
  • Missouri State point guard Nafis Ricks, the 2008-09 National Junior College Player of the Year (all divisions), is Missouri State's top scorer over the last four road games (11.5 ppg). Over the last seven games overall, Ricks has scored 81 points (11.6) with 29 rebounds and 23 assists, all off the bench.
  • The Bears were last in the MVC in points per game last season (60.9) and reached the 70-point plateau just three times. In 2009-10, Missouri State is tops in the Valley in scoring (73.5) and hit 70 points or more 16 times.
  • MSU has lost nine straight games at SIU Arena since a 62-59 win there on Feb. 28, 2000.
  • After going 0-for-9 from the field in the previous two games (58 playing minutes), Adam Leonard broke out of his slump Saturday against UNI with a game-high 17 points with four three-pointers.

Dunk-O-Meter: Missouri State's season dunk total is now 34. The current MSU Dunk-O-Meter looks like this:

Last Outing: No. 25-ranked Northern Iowa escaped with a 55-54 win over Missouri State on Saturday afternoon, collecting the final five points of the game after the Bears (15-7, 5-6) led by four points with 1:38 to play.

Adam Leonard (Jr., G, Lees Summit, Mo.) posted a game-high 17 points for the Bears, including four three-pointers. MSU also got 9 points from Jermaine Mallett (Jr., F, Jackson, Miss.) and 8 from Will Creekmore (Jr., C, Tulsa, Okla.) who also posted a game-high 8 rebounds.

 The Bears outrebounded UNI 31-29 in the game and had just eight turnovers to the Panthers' 10. MSU also collected five three-pointers, including four by Leonard who was 4-of-9 from beyond the arc for his best outing in two weeks.

Cuonzo Martin's squad was 22-of-56 (.393) from the field and made five of the seven free throws (.714) they were awarded in the contest. Northern Iowa (19-2, 9-1), on the other hand, got to the line 16 times, making 12 (.750) and made good on 20-of-44 (.455) field goals.

 There were 10 lead changes and five ties overall in the contest.

On the Radio: All Missouri State games can be heard on KTXR, Springfield (101.3 FM), the flagship station of the Missouri State Bears Basketball Radio Network. Play-by-play man Art Hains will provide the game description.

 Hains first began calling Bears action in 1977 and is in his second stint and 29th season overall as the Voice of the Bears. He called MSU games from 1977 to 1981 and returned to the mic in 1985. The SIU game will be Art's 875th Missouri State basketball broadcast.

 Color commentary is provided this season by former Bears Mike Keltner (1970-74) and Drew Richards (2004-08). The Bears are 10-4 with Keltner providing color and 5-3 with Richards.

 MSU basketball can also be heard on the nine-station MSU Bears Basketball Radio Network (see sidebar), in addition to live audio streaming on

On Television: Wednesday's game is the seventh of eight Bears' games to be telecast live on Mediacom Connections (Channel 22 locally) and the Missouri Sports Cable Network throughout the state. Don West is the play-by-play man for Mediacom, while KOLR-10 TV sports director Dan Lucy will provide color commentary. Corey Riggs is the executive producer. The Bears are 4-2 this season on locally-produced Mediacom games.

National & Conference Leaders: In Monday's NCAA statistical rankings, the Bears rank among the nation's top 50 teams in three statistical categories -- 20th in free throw percentage (.745), 19st in turnovers per game (11.4), and 34th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.23). Adam Leonard (Jr., G, Lee's Summit, Mo.) ranks 58th nationally in three-point field goals per game (2.6) and 58th in three-point field goal percentage (.373). Kyle Weems (So., F, Topeka, Kan.) ranks 121st in field goal percentage (.477), 200th in three-pointers per game (2.0), and 244th in steals (1.5). Jermaine Mallett (Jr., F, Jackson, Miss.) is 94th in free throw percentage (.824), and Justin Fuehrmeyer (Sr., G, St. Charles, Mo.) ranks 28th in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.50).

 In Monday's MVC statistics, the Bears lead the Valley in scoring (72.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.2). Among individuals ranking in the top 10 in the league statistics, Kyle Weems ranks 4th in scoring (14.6), 7th in rebounding (5.8), 2nd in three-point field goal percentage (.437), 10th in FG percentage (.477), 6th in steals (1.5), 5th in three-pointers per game (2.0), and 7th in defensive rebounds (4.6). Jermaine Mallett is 9th in rebounding (5.6), 7th in FT percentage (.821), and 7th in offensive rebounds (1.8), while Adam Leonard is 2nd in three-pointers per game (2.6), 7th in minutes played (33.0), and 4th in FT percentage (.852). Caleb Patterson (So., C, Ames, Okla.) is 8th in FG Percentage (.493), and Justin Fuehrmeyer is 1st in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5) and 5th in assists (3.3).

Milestones: Justin Fuehrmeyer (Sr., G, St. Charles, Mo.) needs 42 points for 500, 9 assists for 300, 4 rebounds for 200, and 7 steals for 100 in his career ... Ryan Jehle (Jr., F, Overland Park, Kan.) needs 8 points for 200 career ... Keith Pickens (Fr., G, St. Louis, Mo.) needs 11 points for 100 season ... Caleb Patterson (So., C, Ames, Okla.) needs 20 points for 200 career ... Kyle Weems (Jr., F, Topeka, Kan.) needs 20 rebounds for 300 and 19 assists for 100 career ... Will Creekmore (Jr., C, Tulsa, Okla.) needs 4 FT for 100 career ... Nafis Ricks (Jr., G, Philadelphia, Pa.) needs 2 points for 150 season ... Jermaine Mallett (Jr., F, Jackson, Miss.) needs 3 assists for 50 season.

Coors Player of the Week: Will Creekmore (Jr., C, Tulsa, Okla.) is this week's Coors Player of the Week. Creekmore posted a career-high and game-high 20 points in lifting the Bears to a double-figure league win over Evansville on Wednesday with 8 rebounds and 2 assists, before notching a game-high 8 rebounds to go along with 8 points in Saturday's narrow loss to No. 25 Northern Iowa. For the week, Creekmore was 11-for-22 (.500) from the field with 28 points and 16 boards.

Non-Conference? Non-Problem: The Bears finished non-conference play (save the BracketBusters game on February 20) with a 10-1 record and are now 18-5 overall under head coach Cuonzo Martin against non-MVC foes. MSU has assured itself of its seventh straight winning record in non-conference games and has matched its highest non-league win total since the Bears were 11-4 in 1998-99.

Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge Series: The Missouri Valley Conference claimed the inaugural Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge Series this fall, winning five games to four. The Bears were victorious over Air Force, 58-48, at JQH Arena on Dec. 5 in their series game. Other MVC winners in the series were: Indiana State, Wichita State, Illinois State, and Northern Iowa, while Evansville did not participate in the inaugural challenge.

 Overall, Missouri Valley teams completed the pre-Christmas non-conference season with an overall 75-32 record.

McFarland Dismissed Dec. 26: Missouri State men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin announced Dec. 26 that sophomore guard Cardell McFarland (Evansville, Ind.), one of the team's three returning starters from last season, was dismissed from the squad due to an undisclosed violation of team conduct rules during the team's scheduled holiday break.

 McFarland played in five of the team's first 11 games this season, scoring 25 points with 7 rebounds and 8 assists. He missed three games with a knee contusion suffered in the Tulsa game on Nov. 28 and had been in uniform for the Bears' next three games, but did not play. As a freshman last season, he started 19 of the 29 games in which he appeared, averaging 6.9 points and 1.6 rebounds with a career-high 15 points at Tennessee-Martin on Feb. 21, 2009.

Spoonhour Headlines 2010 MSU Hall of Fame Class: Former Bears' head coach Charlie Spoonhour (1983-92) is one of six former Missouri State coaches and student-athletes to be inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame during ceremonies on campus, Feb. 5-6.

 Spoonhour posted a 197-81 (.709) record at Missouri State which included 20-win, postseason teams each of his final seven seasons. That stretch included Mid-Continent Conference regular season championships four years in a row from 1987 through 1990. The Bears' 1986 NIT club was Missouri State's first Division I postseason team and knocked off Pitt and Marquette before a one-point loss to Florida in the quarterfinals. The Bears reached the NCAA for the first time in 1987 and had a first-round win over Clemson before losing to Kansas. MSU returned to the NCAA meet in 1988, 1989 and 1990 from the Mid-Continent Conference, and in 1992 from the Missouri Valley Conference. The 1992 Bears won what remains the school's only men's MVC basketball championship. Spoonhour's 1987 team finished with a school record 28 wins and took a 15-game win streak into the NCAA second round vs. Kansas.

 The six new inductees will bring the total membership in the Missouri State Athletics Hall of Fame to 326.

 The rest of the shrine class features football player Jeremy Hoog (1994-1997), track and field athlete Verneta Lesforis (1997-1999), basketball player Roshonda Reed (1995-1999) and volleyball player Amy Russell McNew (1990-1993).

 The new inductees will go into the shrine at an induction ceremony to be held Feb. 6, in a 12 noon luncheon in the Plaster Student Union Ballroom. Inductees will also be recognized in halftime ceremonies in the first two of that weekend's Missouri State basketball games in JQH Arena. The Lady Bears will host Creighton University on Friday, Feb. 5, at 7:35 p.m., and the Bears will host Creighton Saturday, Feb. 6, at 7:05 p.m.

 The 2010 Missouri State Athletics Hall of Fame induction lunch is open to the public and reservations may be made through Monday, Feb. 1, by calling Missouri State Athletics Development (417) 836-4143. Tickets are $25 per person.

Assistant Coach Kent Williams Joins SIU Hall: Missouri State men's basketball assistant coach Kent Williams joined five other former Southern Illinois University athletics standouts as 2010 inductees into the SIU Athletic Hall of Fame on January 8.

 Williams (1999-2003) helped rejuvenate the men's basketball program at Southern Illinois a decade ago. As a four-year starter, his teams were 88-42 during his career and advanced to two NCAA Tournaments (2002, 2003), including a Sweet 16 appearance, and one NIT bid (2000). Williams became just the second player in school history to surpass 2,000 career points. He was a two-time, First-Team All-MVC selection (2002, 2003) and runner-up to Kyle Korver for MVC Player of the Year in 2003. He ranks among the school leaders in numerous career categories, including 3-pointers (2nd), free throws (2nd) assists (8th) and games started (1st).

 Williams came to Missouri State, along with head coach Cuonzo Martin, from Purdue in the spring of 2008.

Bracket Busting: After posting a 10-1 record in non-conference play this season, the Bears now host Nevada on Saturday, Feb. 20 (2:05 p.m.) in the ESPN BracketBusters series for their final non-MVC foe of the season.

 Missouri State is 3-3 all-time in the BracketBusters series, 1-2 at home, and 1-3 in televised BracketBusters games. This year's game will be the first-ever BracketBusters game at JQH Arena.

 On Dec. 9, the Bears defeated Tennessee-Martin, 79-51, in their BracketBusters return game from last season. MSU improved to 6-0 all-time in BracketBusters return games with the win. The new return game policy will have the Bears traveling to Reno to play the Wolfpack during the 2011-12 season.

Building the Program: On Nov. 11-12, 2009, Missouri State head coach Cuonzo Martin announced the receipt of National Letters of Intent from three high school prospects for the 2010-11 season.

 Committing to Missouri State were:

  • Nathan Scheer (6-5, 200, F, Washington, Mo., St. Francis Borgia High)
  • Corey Copeland (6-3, 180, G, Fort Smith, Ark., Northside High)
  • Aaron Cooper (5-11, 170, G, Jacksonville, Ark., North Pulaski High)

 Scheer, a student with a 3.95 GPA, was a consensus Missouri Class 4 All-State pick last season. He helped lead coach Dave Neier's St. Francis Borgia High School to a 28-3 overall record and Missouri state title last season after averaging 15.9 points and 5.0 rebounds as a junior. He also added 41 three-pointers, 60 assists and 44 steals last season. As a sophomore, Scheer led Borgia in scoring and rebounding with 17.1 points and 5.7 rebounds.

 Scheer scored a career-high 36 points on 12/9/09, including seven 3-pointers, to lead Borgia to a thrilling 78-75 victory over Whitfield. The Knights have won 34 straight games and are ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 4 with a perfect 18-0 record. Scheer is averaging 22.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists, and is 52-for-101 from three.

 Copeland helped his Fort Smith (Ark.) Northside squad to the Arkansas Class 7A quarterfinals last season, earning All-State honors and a spot on the All State Tournament Team. He averaged 15.2 points and led his team in field goal percentage. He holds a 3.4 GPA and is considered an athletic player with outstanding leaping and shooting abilities. Martin calls Copeland a slasher who can make shots and play three different positions.

 His Grizzlies are 14-6 this season. He is averaging 16.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists. He notched a season-high 31 points on 12/30/09 against Fort Smith Southside behind 8-of-10 three-pointers.

 Cooper averaged 18.0 points and 4.1 assists as a prep junior a year ago at North Pulaski (Ark.) High. He made 82-percent of his free throws and knocked down 53-percent of his three-pointers. He is a reputable defender who uses his quickness to create offense, and has a great instincts. Martin says Cooper has the potential to be a great on-ball defender and a scoring point guard. His father, Raymond, is also his high school and AAU coach.

 His Falcons are 15-4 this season. Cooper is averaging 16.5 points per game with 32 three-pointers.

Bears in the Pros: Blake Ahearn (2004-07) is back in the NBA Development League with 8 games under his belt with the Bakersfield Jam. He is averaging 14.1 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists, going 31-for-32 (.969) at the foul line. He posted 28 points behind six three-pointers in Friday's 137-116 win over Idaho. Ahearn started the season in Spain and played 13 games for the MMT Estudiantes Madrid before returning to the U.S. He averaged 14.2 points, 1.1 rebounds, and 24.4 minutes per game and was 36-for-87 (.414) from three-point range. The NCAA all-time free throw leader broke the Spanish league record by going 57-for-58 (.983) at the charity stripe.

 Ahearn spent the bulk of the 2008-09 season with the Dakota Wizards of the NBA Development League where he was co-MVP of the D-League All-Star Game after claiming league's Rookie of the Year honors in 2007-08. Ahearn had stints with the NBA's Spurs and Heat during the most recent two seasons.

Deven Mitchell (2004-08) is playing for the CS Gaz Metan Medias squad in the Romanian League. He is averaging 13.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game through 18 games while making 57.6 percent of his field goals.

 Shelton Colwell (2003-04) is active in Austria, averaging 14.1 points and 5.9 rebounds through the first 15 games of the season for the BSC Raiffeisen Fursten feld Panthers.

Preseason Valley Poll: The Bears were picked ninth in the MVC preseason poll, marking just the fourth time since the Bears joined the league in 1990-91 that they have been picked to finish outside the 10-team conferences' upper division.

 Last season, the Bears were picked 10th in the league and finished 3-15 in the MVC, the program's lowest-ever finish.

Home Attendance: In 2008-09, the Bears eclipsed 100,000 fans (121,502) for the 17th time in the last 24 seasons. The team's final home average of 7,147 in 17 games at JQH Arena was the second-best home average for Missouri State this decade and 15th best all-time. The team's 2008-09 net attendance ranked No. 6 all-time at MSU.

 The Bears also improved to fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference in home attendance average after finishing sixth in 2007-08, and were Division I basketball's 20th most-improved program in home attendance in 2008-09.

 The Bears have been ranked between 55th and 90th among Division I programs in home attendance in 16 of the last 22 seasons, including a national ranking of 75th in 2008-09.

 Through 13 of 17 home games, the Bears have drawn 92,243 fans and are averaging 7,096 fans per game.

Debut of the Q: With a $30-million gift from Missouri State alumnus and Springfield-based hotel developer John Q. Hammons, the long-time dream of a new home for the Missouri State Bears and Lady Bears and an iconic tribute to MSU intercollegiate athletics became a reality last season. JQH Arena features a seating capacity of 11,000, including 50 courtside seats, 24 suites, PRIME Overtime Club, Hall of Fame and Legacy of Competition exhibits, 114 loge seats, 1,363 reserved student bleacher seats and 9,637 chairback seats.

 The Bears defeated Arkansas, 62-57, before a sellout crowd of 10,881 on November 22, 2008 in the inaugural game at JQH Arena. The first opponent to beat MSU in the facility was Utah, 71-58, on November 26, 2008. MSU is 11-2 at JQH Arena in 2009-10 and 20-10 all-time.

 MSU finished its inaugural campaign at JQH Arena with a 9-8 home record and an average home attendance of 7,147, ranking 75th among all Division I programs and 20th most-improved from the previous season.

The Program: Missouri State entered the 2009-10 season with the 28th-best all-time win total in NCAA Division I men's basketball and the 17th-best by winning percentage (.642). Currently, the Bears have an all-time record of 1515-842 (.643) in 98 seasons and are 530-325 (.620) since making the move to Division I in 1982-83.

 During its Division I era, MSU has made NCAA Tournament appearances in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, and 1999. With Tournament wins over Wisconsin and Tennessee, the 1999 Bears advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16. The Bears have also appeared in the National Invitation Tournament eight times -- 1986, 1991, 1993, 1997, 2000, 2005, 2006, and 2007. The 1986, 1993 and 2006 squads all reached the NIT quarterfinals.

 The Bears won NAIA national championship titles in 1952 and 1953, while making six NAIA national tournament appearances from 1939-1954. MSU also appeared in the NCAA Division II Tournament 10 times, finishing as national runners-up on three occassions -- 1959, 1967, and 1969.

 Missouri State has won 23 conference titles, not including a 1992 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title.

Missouri State University: Missouri State University is a public, comprehensive university system with a mission in public affairs, whose purpose is to develop educated persons while achieving five goals: democratizing society, incubating new ideas, imagining Missouri's future, making Missouri's future, and modeling ethical and effective behavior.

 With a record enrollment of 22,938 in 2009-10, MSU is the second-largest institution for higher learning in Missouri, and its identity is distinguished by its statewide mission in public affairs. This mission requires a campus-wide commitment to foster competence and responsibility in the common vocation of citizenship. Missouri State University-Springfield is a selective admissions, graduate level teaching and research institution.

 Missouri State competes at the NCAA Division I level and is a member of the Missouri Valley Conference with affiliate membership in the Mid-American Conference for field hockey and men's swimming and diving.

 Notable Missouri State alums include: Ryan Howard (2009 NLCS MVP, first baseman, Philadelphia Phillies), John Goodman (actor), Kathleen Turner (actress), David Glass (owner, Kansas City Royals), John Q. Hammons (businessman, hotel developer), Bob Holden (43rd governor of Missouri), Bill Mueller (2003 American League batting champ), Jackie Stiles (Division I career scoring leader), and Blake Ahearn (NBA D-League MVP and All-Star Game co-MVP).

Up Next: Missouri State returns to JQH Arena Saturday at 7:05 p.m. to host Creighton on Hall of Fame weekend. The team continues its two-game home stand on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 7:05 p.m. when the Bears host Southern Illinois in a return game from tonight's matchup.



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