Bears look to bounce back against Seahawks



The Missouri State Bears face their only home game in a stretch of four games between Nov. 25 and Dec. 15 when they host the University of North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks in Hammons Student Center Wednesday. The game will wrap up the Bears’ activity before fall semester final exams and the Bears will be idle from competition after UNCW for 10 days before they go to Utah Dec. 15. Fall semester Commencement at Missouri State is Dec. 14.

  The Bears come into the game 4-2, having had their four-game winning streak snapped Monday night in a 70-51 setback at Arkansas. Missouri State 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 loss at Arkansas.

  In contrast to the slow starts they had had in their first two road games this season, the Bears got off in good shape in the game at Arkansas. The Bears led 10-4 and 21-15 in the early stages of the contest befire a 13-2 Arkansas run pushed the Hogs up 28-23. The Bears lagged by five at the half and by only 44-40 early in the second half when a 9-0 Razorback run sent the margin to 13 and the Bears didn’t get within single digits again. After hitting 53 percent the first half from the floor, the Bears shot just .219 (7/32) in the second half and were outrebounded 27-15 after the break as Arkansas won its fifth straight at climbed to 7-1 for the season.

  The Arkansas loss came after an eight-day layoff for the Bears following a big road win Nov. 25 at Winthrop. In that contest, it was a tale of two halves. The Eagles outshot the Bears 58-32 percent in building a 22-point lead late in the first half and led 45-29 at the break. The Bears got the deficit within single digits twice before an 11-0 run finally overtook Winthrop in the closing minutes as Missouri State snapped a 24-game home win streak for a team which reached the second round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. Winthrop had won 47 of its previous 48 outings at home, dating back to the start of the 2004-05 season. The Bears fired away with 54 percent field goal accuracy in the second half and held the Eagles to 21 percent from the floor.

  UNC Wilmington is bidding to work its way back from a 7-22 season last year and the Seahawks have started quickly. UNCW opened with a win over Charleston, dropped road games at Illinois State and Indiana, and has reeled off four straight wins, beating Longwood (80-65), Coppin State (78-57), Toledo (65-61) and at Hofstra (97-83 in OT) Sunday for a 5-2 record.

 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 Valley mark, reach the semifinals of the State Farm MVC Tournament and play in the National Invitation Tournament. It was the Bears’ third straight NIT appearance. This season will be the Bears’ third year as Missouri State (previously Southwest Missouri State).

  Wednesday’s Arkansas game continues a busy Missouri State non-league slate in which the Bears visit five states before Christmas. After UNCW, the Bears have a 10-day break before going to Utah (12/15). The Bears then play four games in the exempt Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic, hosting UTPA (12/17) and Bethune-Cookman (12/19) in Hammons. The team heads west for the semifinals and finals at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 22-23. MSU plays Alabama in the semifinals and the other semifinal event pits Purdue and Iowa State. The Bears open Missouri Valley Conference play Dec. 30 at defending league champ Southern Illinois and the team’s only remaining non-conference game is a home test in an O’Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters test in Hammons either 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 156-103 in his ninth year at Missouri State and 192-126 overall in his 11th year as a college head coach. He’s 1-0 vs. UNCW. Hinson is fifth on the all-time MSU coaching win list and is the sixth Bears’ coach to post 100 wins.

Benny Moss (Charlotte, ’92) is 12-24 in his second year at UNCW and overall as a college head coach. He’s 0-1 vs. MSU.


Series Record: Missouri State leads 3-0. The Bears won last year in Wilmington and swept a home-and-home series with the Seahawks in the mid-1990s.

n Last year: MSU handed the Seahawks only their 12th loss in 91 home games in a 78-62 win in Wilmington on 12/9/06. The Bears matched the school one-game record with 14 treys in the contest in what was the Bears’ first true road win of the season with five players scoring in double figures. Blake Ahearn hit five threes and scored 18 points while Nathan Bilyeu added 15, Tyler Chaney scored 12, Dale Lamberth had 11 and Spencer Laurie added 10. The Bears amassed a 43-31 rebound margin and hit 54 percent of their long-range attempts in the contest.

Affiliation: Missouri State is in its 26th year in Division I and 18th in the MVC. The Bears are 492-283 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 1,476-791 (.651) 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.

Last year: Missouri State posted its sixth straight winning season in 2006-07 and the Bears’ 22-11 record gave them an average of 20.5 wins a season over the past four years. Missouri State started 4-0, including a 66-64 win over #7 Wisconsin, then lost by three in overtime to unbeaten Oklahoma State in the finals of the South Padre Island Invitational. The Bears raced through their early non-league slate at 8-2, including wins over UW-Milwaukee, UNC-Wilmington, Santa Clara and South Florida. The Bears stumbled at the start of their league slate but righted the ship to finish 12-6, alone in third place. The Bears, after not having beaten Wichita State in four years, completed a three-game sweep over the Shockers by downing WSU in the quarterfinals of the MVC tourney. Missouri State lost to Creighton in the semifinals and then dropped a four-point decision to San Diego State on a late three in the first round of the NIT.

n A-B-C Seniors Shine: The Bears’ three senior co-captains last year were all four-year lettermen and three or four-year starters with well over 100 MSU games each. Blake Ahearn averaged 15.4 points to lead Bear scoring and collect his second straight all-MVC first team nod and selection as MSU Coors Player of the Year. His 1,677 points rank seventh all-time at MSU. He finished third in the nation in free throw accuracy but his four-year .946 figure set a new NCAA career mark. Nathan Bilyeu led rebounding at 5.4 a game and wound up 15th in MSU career rebounding with 628 while finishing 29th in career points with 939. Tyler Chaney earned the Guy Thompson Award for the program and averaged 10.3 points, reached fifth in career three-pointers, and got to 28th in all-time scoring with 957 points.

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, in Bismarck, N.D.

 Ahearn, a fourth round selection in the 10-round D League draft, joins a Dakota team which is the reigning D League champ. Dakota was 33-17 last year and won the playoffs in its first season in the D League. Ahearn scored 24 in the Wizards’ lone exhibition game and then got 13 and 8 points in Dakota’s first two regular season games.

 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 has a 14-player roster this season, 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, Tomas Brock and David Cline are redshirting this season.


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

 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.

nBalanced Bears: With the Bears’ front line of Mitchell, Lamberth and Richards putting on two dominating performances, 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, and Shane Laurie added five assists.

 The Bears stayed balanced in Wednesday’s win over Saint Louis with eight players getting five or more points with Mitchell, Lamberth and Shane Laurie scoring 10 each while SLU got 54 of its 56 points from just four players.

nMVP Deven: Deven Mitchell had new career highs of 24 points in each game of the Price Cutter, 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-tourney and Most Valuable Player voting in the meet.

nDrew’s hot: 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.

 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. Drew’s 13 blocks this season give him 105 for his career and fourth place in MSU career blocks. Next ahead is Ricky Johnson at 125, and Danny Moore has the career record at 167

nThrowin’ the "D": The Bears have held three of their first six foes below 57 points and have a 61.8 defensive average for the young season. Missouri State is holding its combined foes to a .418 field goal percentage and the Bears’ own shooting figure is just below above 50 percent at .469.

nThree with threes: The Bears’ three most prolific long-range shooters--Dale Lamberth and Spencer and Shane Laurie--have combined for all but four of the Bears’ 35 treys through six games with a .420 percentage from beyond the arc, while the rest of the club has combined to hit 4-of-29 three-point tries.

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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