Bears Take to the Road Wednesday for Showdown with Tulsa
Bears Take Two-Game Win Streak to Tulsa - After a pair of home victories against teams with a combined 11-1 record, the Missouri State Bears take to the road Wednesday for their final non-conference road game before the February ESPNU BracketBusters when they play the 4-4 Tulsa Golden Hurricane out of Conference USA. MSU defeated previously-unbeaten Arkansas-Little Rock 59-37 last Wednesday before a 52-47 victory over Arkansas State at JQH Arena on Saturday.
Tulsa is 4-4 on the season and hungry to get back on track after three straight losses through a tough portion of its schedule that has featured setbacks to tough non-conference foes Illinois, Ohio and Oklahoma. The Golden Hurricane is 3-0 at Reynolds Center (8,355) this year and 3-1 in the city of Tulsa, including Sunday’s neutral-site loss to Oklahoma.
The former Missouri Valley Conference foes will meet for the first time since December 14, 2002 when Tulsa scored a 62-46 win at Hammons Student Center in Springfield.
Missouri State is 1-1 on the road this season after dropping a 75-60 decision at Auburn (11/14/08) in the season opener and defeating Central Michigan by a 60-57 count in Mount Pleasant Michigan (11/17/08) as first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin picked up his first career victory.
Sizing Up the Opposition - After a 4-1 start, Tulsa has lost three games in a row, including Sunday’s 69-44 loss to No. 6 Oklahoma. The Golden Hurricane is led by junior Ben Uzoh (G, 6-3, San Antonio, Texas, 15.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg) who is also the team’s leading assist man and is second on the squad in three-point shooting. Seven-foot junior center Jerome Jordan (Kingston, Jamaica, 10.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg) has blocked 19 shots and is a 54-percent shooter as well as the team’s top free throw shooter (70.6). Ray Reese (Sr., F, Los Angeles, Calif) is tied with Uzoh for the team lead in steals with 14 and avearges 8.9 points with a team-best 15 three-pointers.
Tulsa returns three starters from last season’s 25-14 squad that won the inaugural CBI postseason tournament. The Golden Hurricane was 18-2 at the Reynolds Center a year ago and already 3-0 in the facility this season. TU was picked third in the Conference USA preseason poll.
Coach Doug Wojcik (Navy, 1987) is 60-42 in his fourth season at Tulsa and overall. He has never coached against Missouri State.
The Series - The Bears are 18-15 all-time against Tulsa, although the Golden Hurricane have won 10 of the last 11 games between the two clubs. The series dates back to the 1931-32 season, and the teams were both members of the Missouri Valley Conference from 1990-91 to 1995-96 during which the Bears won six of the 12 meetings, including a memorable 71-68 MSU win in the MVC Tournament in 1992. On the road, the Bears are 6-9 all-time in the series and have not played Tulsa since the 2002-03 season when Tulsa prevailed, 62-46, at Hammons Student Center. Tulsa has won four in a row with the last Bears’ win taking place in 1995-96 when MSU scored a 66-61 win in Tulsa.
Head Coach Cuonzo Martin - Cuonzo (CON-zoe) Martin (Purdue, 2000) is in his first season as a collegiate head coach after 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. He became Missouri State’s 16th head basketball coach on April 1, 2008.
He is 4-2 in his brief coaching tenure, including a 3-1 mark at JQH Arena and 1-1 mark on the road.
Martin (37) 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.
Bears Basketball Radio Network - All Missouri State Bears 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, while former Bears players Mike Keltner (1972-74) and Jeff Ford (1989-90) will provide color commentary throughout the season. Hains first began calling Bears’ action in 1977 and is in his second stint and 28th season overall as the Voice of the Bears. He called Bears games from 1977-81 and returned to that post in 1985. He has now announced 827 Bears’ basketball games in his career.
MSU basketball can also be heard on the 10-station, two-state Missouri State Bears Football Radio Network on the following affiliates: Ava - KKOZ (92.1 FM/1430 AM); El Dorado Springs - KESM (105.5 FM); Jefferson City - KJMO (97.5); Kansas City - KCWJ (1030 AM); Monett - KKBL (95.9 FM); Poplar Bluff - KLID (1340 AM); St. Louis - KSLG (1380 AM); Sparta, Ill. - WHC) (1230 AM); Springfield - KTXR (101.3 FM) (flagship); Willow Springs - KUKU (100.3 FM).
Podcasts - Missouri State now produces a weekly Podcast, available on the Missouri State Athletics web site -- www.MissouriStateBears.com -- by clicking on the Fan Central icon or the Podcast banner ad. Beginning December 15, the Podcasts will also be available at iTunes.com
Television - The Tulsa game will air live on Mediacom Connections (Channel 14 locally) with Don West providing the play-by-play and Dan Lucy serving as color commentator. The Bears will appear live on Mediacom Connections eight times this season. The Missouri Cable Sports Network will also show the games throughout Missouri, with the schedule determined by each local Mediacom market.
Remaining games on this year’s Mediacom Connections slate are: Dec. 10 (at Tulsa), Jan. 18 (at Illinois State), Jan. 28 (at Southern Illinois), Feb. 1 (at Creighton), Feb. 4 (Evansville), Feb. 10 (at Wichita State) and Feb. 17 (at Bradley). The Bears are 1-0 on Mediacom this season.
MSU will be featured on FOX Sports Midwest twice this season -- Jan. 10 (at Northern Iowa) and Feb. 14 (Indiana State), while the Bears will play on two national ESPN telecasts at home Jan. 25 on ESPNU (UNI) and Feb. 7 on ESPN2 (Southern Illinois).
Bears Live! - Tonight’s game will be shown on Missouri State’s on-line video channel -- Bears Live!
Bears Live is a new, premium broadband video destination for exclusive live and on-demand Missouri State streaming video & audio content. This broadband video channel is the ultimate place for Bears fans on the web and can be accessed through www.MissouriStateBears.com, the official web site of Missouri State Athletics.
Links to live game stats and the Missouri State Bears Basketball Radio Network free live audio stream can be found on the game notes page for this week’s game on the MSU Athletics Web page -- www.MissouriStateBears.com.
Poll Position - For the first time in their 19-year tenure in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Missouri State men were picked last in the 10-team conference. The Bears return three starters and six lettermen from a 17-16 team a year ago. Since joining the league in 1990-91, the Bears have been picked in the league’s upper division 16 times in the previous 18 preseason polls, as determined by conference coaches, sports information directors, beat writers and broadcasters.
The only previous lower division predictions for the Bears in the Valley preseason poll were in 1995-96 and 2002-03 when Missouri State was picked eighth. In 1995-96, MSU finished 16-12 overall and 11-7 in the league, tying for fourth place. In 2002-03, the Bears completed a 17-12 season and tied for third (12-6) in the MVC.
Creighton claimed 36 of the 39 first-place votes in this year’s preseason poll and was tabbed first with 386 points, followed by SIU (322), Illinois State (309), Drake (274), Bradley (219), UNI (186), Indiana State (137), Evansville (122), Wichita State (105), Missouri State (85). Likewise, no Bears were named to the preseason all-conference team.
Mo. State Against the State - The Bears are 71-36 all-time against opponents from the Sooner State and have already played one Oklahoma opponent during the 2008-09 preseason -- a 103-73 home win over East Central University.
Against the four NCAA Division I teams from Oklahoma, Missouri State is 18-15 against Tulsa, 3-3 against Oral Roberts, 0-5 against Oklahoma State, 0-3 against Oklahoma.
Court Captains - Seniors Spencer Laurie (G, Springfield, Mo.), Shane Laurie (G, Springfield, Mo.), Chris Cooks (F, Idabel, Okla.) and Wade Knapp (C, Wakeeney, Kan.) will share captain duties for the Bears this season. Spencer Laurie was a co-captain last season as well, making him one of 10 Bears to ever hold the honor of captain for more than one season. Previous multiple-year captains were: Finis Engleman (1914-15), Carl Fox (1927, 29), Gene Ruble (1949-50), Bill Thomas (1952-53), Max Oldham (1956-58), Danny Bolden (1966-67), Jimmy Dull (1977-78), Mark Lance (1981-82), and Danny Moore (1998-99).
Bears in the Final NCAA RPI - Since 1994-95, the Bears have finished in the NCAA Division I upper division in the Final RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) all 14 seasons, including four finishes in the top 40, five finishes in the top 50 and eight stops in the top 100. The Bears own three of the five best RPI’s not to have been selected for an at-large NCAA Tournament berth. MSU had the 21st-best RPI on Selection Sunday when it was snubbed for the Dance in 2005-06 as well as a Tourney exclusion after a No. 34 regular season placement in 1999-2000. The 2006-07 Bears were No. 36 in the NCAA’s power ratings on Selection Sunday. All three teams played in the NIT and were a collective 3-3 in the postseason those years. The 1996-97 Bears were 25-7 in the regular season, ranked No. 42 in the RPI and were also not awarded an NCAA at-large berth. The Bears have five 20-win seasons to their credit in the past 12 seasons and have recorded seven consecutive winning seasons.
Bears Basketball Centennial - The 2008-09 season marks the 100th anniversary of Missouri State’s first basketball team in 1908-09. The University did not field teams in 1911-12, 1912-13, 1943-44 or 1944-45 due to World War I and II, making this the 97th season the Bears have hit the hardwood. MSU is the 27th winningest NCAA Division I program, having compiled a 1,493-817 (.646) all-time basketball record. Cuonzo Martin is Missouri State’s 16th head basketball coach.
Over the previous 10 seasons, the Bears are 191-128 (.599), which ranks 65th among all NCAA Division I schools during that span and third among Missouri Valley Conference schools behind No. 19 Creighton (.710) and No. 26 Southern Illinois (.691).
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 has become a reality. 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 and are now 3-1 in the facility. The first opponent to beat Missouri State in the facility was Utah, 71-58, on November 26, 2008.
Steppin’ Up the Defense - Through Sunday’s games, Missouri State ranks 23rd in NCAA Division I and first in the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring defense, giving up just 57.3 points per game and 42.0 per game over the last two contests.
Only Auburn (75) and Utah (71) have scored more than 57 points against the Bears this season -- both losses for Missouri State.
500 for Spence - With six points against Arkansas, Spencer Laurie (Sr., G, Springfield, Mo.) eclipsed the 500-point plateau for his collegiate career. Likewise, his 18 points against Utah put him over the 500-point mark for his Missouri State career. Including 11 points scored during his brief stint at the University of Missouri, Laurie now has 538 career points, and 527 at MSU. He needs 57 points to move into Missouri State’s top 80 all-time scorers.
With his six points against Arkansas on Nov. 22, he has now scored points in four different home arenas, including his time at Missouri where he played in Hearnes Center and Mizzou Arena.
Exhibition Excellence - Five Bears averaged double figures in scoring for Missouri State’s pair of preseason exhibition games this November. MSU defeated Quincy, 79-44, on November 3 before a 103-73 victory over East Central (Okla.) on November 10. Both games were played at Hammons Student Center.
The Bears were led by Chris Cooks’ (Sr., F, Idabel, Okla.) who averaged 24.5 points per game, including 28 against East Central (Okla.) on November 10, the Bears averaged 91 points as a team and shot 46.4 percent from the field with 8.5 three-pointers per contest. Cardell McFarland (Fr., G, Evansville, Ind.) scored 12 points in his only exhibition appearance, while redshirt freshman Kyle Weems (F, Topeka, Kan.) averaged 11.5 per game in the preseason. Fellow starters Wade Knapp (Sr., C, Wakeeney, Kan.) and Spencer Laurie (Sr., G, Springfield, Mo.) averaged 11 and 10.5 points, respectively. Also, in two exhibition starts, Ryan Jehle (So., F, Overland Park, Kan.) averaged 9 points per game for the Bears.
MSU surrendered just 58.5 points per game, forced 56 turnovers (28.0), and had a +8.0 rebound margin. The Bears also held a 46-14 assist advantage over their opponents in the preseason and snagged 29 steals.
Mountain West / Missouri Valley Conference Challenge - In October, The Missouri Valley Conference and the Mountain West Conference announced an agreement in principle to the formation of an annual Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge for men’s basketball, potentially beginning in 2009-10. All 19 members of both leagues will participate in the Challenge, which will feature head-to-head competition between nine Mountain West and nine Missouri Valley teams annually.
The Mountain West has ranked among the Top 10 in the NCAA’s final RPI report in eight of the last nine years, while the Valley has been among the Top 8 in each of the last four.
Ahearn Reassigned to Austin - Missouri State alum Blake Ahearn (2003-07), the most accurate free throw shooter in NCAA Division I history, was assigned November 30 to the Austin Toros, the NBA Development League team owned and operated by the San Antonio Spurs and coached by Quin Snyder.
After signing with the Spurs on November 16, Ahearn appeared in three games and averaged 2.7 points in 6.3 minutes. The Spurs were 6-2 after Ahearn joined the team.
Ahearn was the first player called up from the NBA Development League in the 2008-09 season. He was in Minnesota’s 2008 training camp where he averaged 7.8 points and 1.2 assists in five games. After being waived by the Timberwolves he joined the Dakota Wizards. Ahearn was in camp with the Wizards prior to signing with the Spurs.
He was named Rookie of the Year in the NBA Development League for the 2007-08 season. In 41 games for the Dakota Wizards, Ahearn averaged 19.0 points, 3.5 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 29.4 minutes per game. He shot 49 percent (239-492) from the field, including 108-for-246 from three-point range, and 96 percent (191-199) from the free throw line.
He was called up to the NBA’s Miami Heat on March 21, 2008, appearing in 12 games and scoring in double figures three times with 70 total points and an amazing 30-for-31 free throw effort.
Mitchell Signs Pro Contract for Austrian League - Deven Mitchell, who shared the Missouri State Coors Player of the Year Award last winter, began play in the Austrian Basketball League in October. Mitchell signed a contract to play for the Vienna Lions, a member of Austria’s top professional league. The Lions’ season runs from October to May in the 12-team Austrian League. A two-year starter, Mitchell became the 27th Bear to reach 1,000 career points when he hit that mark as a senior. In 2007-08, Mitchell was the only player to start all 33 Bear games and led the team in free throw accuracy (.893), rebounding (6.1) and steals (47).
Looking Back - The Bears finished the 2007-08 season with a 17-16 mark and 8-10 (tie for seventh) record in the Missouri valley Conference. The Bears went 1-1 in the State Farm MVC Tournament before bowling out to Illinois State in the quarterfinals and did not reach the postseason (NIT or NCAA) for just the 12th time in their 26-years at the NCAA Division I level.
Four seniors and two additional squad members concluded their Missouri State careers in 2007-08. Starters Dale Lamberth (14.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Deven Mitchell (14.3, 6.1) and Drew Richards (7.2, 4.5) along with reserve Dex Manswell (2.3, 3.1) were seniors last season. Mitchell finished his career 19th on the Bears’ all-time scoring list with 1,131 points and became the 27th player in school history to eclipse the 1,000-point plateau. Lamberth finished with 954 points in three seasons at MSU. Also not returning to the team this season are Tomas Brock (1.2, 0.6) and Lamont Austin (0.0, 1.0).
Former MSU head coach Barry Hinson (1999-2008) finished his nine-year tenure with a 169-117 (.591) record overall and 95-67 (.586) mark in MVC play. Hinson is currently serving as administrative assistant for coach Bill Self at Kansas.
Looking Ahead - On November 12, Missouri State announced the receipt of National Letters of Intent from two men’s basketball prospects for the 2009-10 season. High school seniors Jerome Jones (6-5, 201, F, St. Louis, Mo., Miller Career Academy) and Keith Pickens (6-4, 190, SG, St. Louis, Mo., Oakville High) have both signed letters of intent and announced their intentions to play for coach Cuonzo Martin’s Bears next season.
Jones averaged 17.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a junior in 2007-08 at Miller Career Academy in St. Louis. He was an all-conference and second team all-state performer as a junior, while earning Post-Dispatch honorable mention all-metro distinction. He is regarded as one of the top athletes in St. Louis this season. As a sophomore, he averaged 13.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game and was invited to the Nike Top 100 Hoop Jamboree. He has also been a key player for the St. Louis Eagles AAU team.
Pickens averaged 13.0 points and 5.9 rebounds for the Oakville High School Tigers last season, also accounting for 2.3 blocks and 1.7 assists per game and making 37 percent of his three-pointers. As a sophomore, he averaged 7.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest. He is regarded as a great leaper, scorer and rebounder and escalated his stock over the summer with his performance on the Rameybaasketball.com squad.
Back for More - Bears’ guard Spencer Laurie (Springfield, Mo.) returns for a fourth season with the Missouri State squad this season after being granted an additional year of eligibility under the NCAA waiver. The NCAA ruled this fall that due to the injury and personal circumstances during and following his second season at the University of Missouri (2004-05), he would be eligible for a fourth season of college basketball. After playing in 21 games as a true freshman at Missouri in 2003-04, he was injured after just 7 games in 2004-05. The injury coincided with a family emergency, which ultimately led to his transfer to Missouri State in his hometown of Springfield. He spent the 2005-06 season in residence at MSU after the transfer and became eligible for the Bears in 2006-07 -- his second full college season. He also played for MSU in 2007-08, originally believed to be his final season. He joins younger brother Shane as two of the team’s three returning starters this year.
Creekmore Countdown - Will Creekmore (6-9, 242, C, Tulsa, Okla.) will become eligible to compete for Missouri State at the conclusion of the first semester after transferring to Missouri State during the spring 2008 semester from Boston University. His first game for the Bears will be the Norfolk State game on December 20. The sophomore saw action in four games as a freshman for the America East Conference school, collecting 11 points and 10 rebounds and making good on 83-percent of his free throws. He averaged 23.0 points, 17 rebounds and 3 blocks per game as a senior at Thomas Edison High in Tulsa in 2006-07 where he had a 4.0+ grade point average.
Waiting in the Wings - Missouri State will welcome two Division I transfers to the program this year with the addition of former Eastern Kentucky standout Adam Leonard (6-0, 188, G, Lee’s Summit, Mo.) and Colorado product Caleb Patterson (7-0, 230, C, Ringwood, Okla.). Both players will be ineligible during the 2008-09 season. Leonard will have two remaining years of eligibility, and Patterson will be able to play three years for the Bears.
Patterson played 14 games for the Buffaloes last season, gaining one start and scoring 20 total points.
Leonard was a two-year starter for the Colonels where he helped EKU to the 2007 NCAA Tournament after accounting for 104 three-pointers his freshman season. He averaged 12.5 and 11.9 points, respectively, in his two seasons at EKU.
Big Ups from Knapp - Bears’ senior center Wade Knapp (Wakeeney, Kan.) has scored the team’s first basket in three of the squad’s first six games this season. The 6-foot-8 post standout has also controlled two of the six opening tips, including the Utah game against 7-foot-2 NBA prospect Luke Nevill. He played a career high 35 minutes against the Utes and had a pair of steals, also a career best. He has 22 points and 13 rebounds in his last two games, including a career high 15 points against Arkansas State.
Hands Off Approach - In his 98th collegiate game against Utah (11/26/08), Bears’ senior guard Spencer Laurie (Springfield, Mo.) fouled out for the first time. The Springfield, Mo., native had a game-high 18 points before his night ended with 52 seconds remaining in the contest in an effort to stop the clock. Prior to the Utah game, the only other games in which he had drawn four personal fouls in his career were Jan. 18, 2007 against Northern Iowa at Hammons Student Center and November 14, 2008 at Auburn.
Before Derron Hobbs’ return from injury (11/28/08), Laurie had played 111 of 120 minutes as the team’s point guard.
Fuehr-ious Return - After suffering a severe ankle sprain two days before the season opener, Justin Fuehrmeyer (6-0, Jr., St. Charles, Mo.) returned to action Saturday against Arkansas State (12/6/08). In 18 minutes off the bench, Fuehrmeyer had two points, two rebounds and a steal. His lone field goal make in five attempts came with 18 seconds remaining and gave the Bears a five-point lead, 52-47.
Dunk-O-Meter - Through six games this season, the Bears have six dunks to their credit as follows:
Wade Knapp 3
Isaiah Rhine 2
Kyle Weems 1
MSU opponents now have 15 dunks. Auburn had 5 dunks in the season opener, while Arkansas State had four slams against the Bears at JQH. Likewise, MSU opponents have outscored the Bears, 142-118, in the paint this season.
Milestone Worth Noting - The Bears’ 71-58 home loss to Utah on November 28 marked the program’s 300th loss in the NCAA Division I era (1982-present). The Bears are now 509-300 (.629) with 14 NCAA and NIT postseason bids in their 26 previous seasons at the Division I level.
Coors Players of the Week - The Missouri State Coors Player of the Week for the week of December 1-6 is Ryan Jehle (6-6, 230, So., F, Overland Park, Kan.).
In two games last week, Jehle broke his career high twice in back-to-back home wins over Arkansas-Little Rock and Arkansas State, respectively. He started both games and combined for 20 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
In the UALR game, he played a team-best 36 minutes and had a game-high 10 rebounds, was a perfect 4-for-4 from the line and hit for 9 points and a pair of assists.
He was 4-for-7 from the field against Arkansas State to contribute to a career-high 10 point outing and hit a pair of three-pointers and five boards. His three-pointer with 7:19 remaining in the game extended the Bears’ lead to 10 points at the time and helped Missouri State hold off a late surge by the Red Wolves.
Previous MSU Coors Players of the Week this season are:
November 10-16 - Chris Cooks (Sr., F, Idabel, Okla.)
November 17-23 - Kyle Weems (Fr., F, Topeka, Kan.)
November 24-30 - Spencer Laurie (Sr., G, Springfield, Mo.)
December 1-6 - Ryan Jehle (So., F, Overland Park, Kan.)
Early RPI - The Bears currently rank No. 25 among 343 NCAA Division I schools in the latest RealTimeRPI.com rankings, released Monday morning. Tulsa (4-4) is ranked No. 144 in the same rankings.
In last week’s CollegeRPI.com rankings, the Bears were No. 40 prior to wins over UALR and Arkansas State.
Up Next - The Bears return home Saturday as they begin a five-game home stand through the month of December that includes Central Arkansas on December 13 (7:05 p.m.), three games in the Travelers Tip-Off Tournament (December 20-22), and the Missouri Valley Conference opener against Illinois State on December 28 (2:05 p.m.).