Bears Begin Four-Game Road Swing Saturday at Arkansas State



Missouri State (8-0) at Arkansas State (3-4)

Saturday, Dec. 12, 7:05 p.m.

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The Game: Missouri State (8-0) begins its only extensive road series of the 2009-10 campaign Saturday when it starts a four-game journey at Arkansas State (3-4) at 7:05 p.m.

 The Bears are 8-0 for the first time since the 1996-97 season, but have played just one game away from JQH Arena -- a 75-62 victory at Arkansas-Little Rock on December 2. On Wednesday, the Bears went on a 16-0 run midway through the first half to help the squad to a 50-27 hafltime lead against Tennessee-Martin. MSU parlayed that advantage into a 32-point lead with 8:50 to go in the game and played solid down the stretch to turn back the Skyhawks, 79-51 in the most-lopsided game in JQH Arena history.

 Arkansas State has lost three straight ball games, including a 77-72 home loss to Indiana State on Nov. 29. The Red Wolves has since taken on some heavy hitters, falling 79-57 at home against Ole Miss on Dec. 2 before letting Memphis off the hook on Dec. 5 in a 74-55 setback. ASU is 2-2 at home this season and averages 2,916 per game.

 The Series: MSU leads the all-time series 18-9, including last season's 52-47 win at JQH Arena on Dec. 6, 2008. The Bears are 5-5 all-time in Jonesboro, and have won 5 straight and 8-of-9 in the series, which dates to 1950-51.

The Coaches: Missouri State head coach Cuonzo Martin (Purdue, 2000) is 19-20 (.487) overall, 16-8 (.667) at JQH Arena in his second season at MSU and overall. He is 1-0 against Arkansas State and 3-1 against Sun Belt foes. Martin is also 8-4 in December, and 8-5 on Saturdays.

 Martin 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. He became MSU's 16th head basketball coach on April 1, 2008.

 Martin (38) 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.

 Arkansas State head coach John Brady (Belhaven, 1976) is 16-21 (.432) in his second season at A-State and 297-237 (.556) in his 19th year overall. Prior to coming to Jonesboro, he was 89-77 (.536) in six seasons at Samford (1991-97) and turned in a 192-139 (.580) ledger in 11 seasons at LSU (1997-2008), which included four NCAA and two NIT appearances, with one NCAA Final Four run in 2005-06. He is 0-1 against Missouri State.

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

  • Despite an 11-20 debut in 2007-08, MSU head coach Cuonzo Martin is now 19-20 overall and hoping to reach the .500 mark in his young coaching career in Saturday's game.
  • Kyle Weems is the only MSU player to score in double figures all eight games this season. He has posted double-figures in nine straight games overall, dating back to last season, and 16 of the last 18 contests.
  • Missouri State is 8-0 for the first time since 1996-97 when the Bears won their first 10 ball games and finished 24-9 overall and 12-6 in the MVC.
  • The Bears are looking to win back-to-back road games for the first time since Feb. 20, 2007.
  • MSU's bench has outscored its opponents' reserves in every game this season and by a 224-112 margin overall.
  • The only two MSU head coaches to start 8-0 in their second season are Steve Alford (1996-97) and Cuozo Martin (2009-10). Alford's 1996-97 team won its first 10 ball games.
  • Adam Leonard has hit at least one three-pointer in 28 straight games, while Kyle Weems has extended his streak to 13 consecutive games with at least one trey.
  • The Bears have led or been tied at halftime in 25 of their last 38 games (18-7) and are 7-0 this season when tied (1-0) or leading (6-0) at the intermission. MSU has matched or outscored its opponents in 13 of 16 halves so far in 2009-10.
  • Justin Fuehrmeyer has posted 16 assists in four games since his return on Nov. 28 and has just 2 turnovers. He enters Saturday's game at Arkansas State needing 3 assists to give hime 250 for his career.
  • As of Monday morning, the Bears were ranked No. 8 in the rankings with the 41st-best schedule.

Dunk-O-Meter: Missouri State's season dunk total is now 13.

Last Outing: Missouri State used a hot first-half start to topple Tennessee-Martin, 79-51, Wednesday night at JQH Arena to improve to 8-0 on the season. Three Bears scored 13 points, including Adam Leonard, Kyle Weems and Jermaine Mallett.

 Mallett scored MSU's first seven points as Cuonzo Martin's team led 20-7 five-and-a-half minutes into the game. After the Skyhawks (1-6) fought back to within 22-15 on a three-pointer by Cataurius Taylor at the 12:11 mark, Missouri State went on a 16-0 run and UT Martin was never closer than 17 the rest of the way.

 In the second half, MSU led by as many as 32 points on a Justin Fuehrmeyer basket with 8:50 to go. Nafis Ricks scored eight points in the second half and finished with 11 points overall and a career-best eight rebounds.

 Eleven MSU players finished in the scoring column, helping MSU to a 32-9 edge in bench scoring. Mallett grabbed nine rebounds, and Keith Pickens matched Ricks' eight boards. Weems tied a JQH Arena record with 4 steals and extended his streak to nine straight games scoring in double figures, while Leonard reached a career milestone with his 200th three-pointer in making a trey for the 28th straight ball game.

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 A-State game will be Art's 861st Missouri State basketball broadcasts.

 Color commentary will be provided this season by former Bears Mike Keltner (1970-74) and Drew Richards (2004-08). The Bears are 6-0 with Keltner providing color and 2-0 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

National & Conference Leaders: In this week's NCAA statistical rankings, Adam Leonard (Jr., G, Lee's Summit, Mo.) ranks 29th nationally in three-point field goal percentage (.476), 45th in three-pointers per game (2.9), and 238th in free-throw percentage (.792). Kyle Weems (So., F, Topeka, Kan.) ranks 98th in three-pointers per game (2.4), 91st in field goal percentage (.529) and 232nd in scoring (15.0). Jermaine Mallett (Jr., F, Jackson, Miss.) is 106th in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.08) and 230th in assists (3.6).

 As a team, MSU ranks among the nation's top 50 teams in five categories (see graph above). ... In the MVC, the Bears lead the Valley in three-point field goal percentage (.417) and rank second in scoring defense (59.4), field goal percentage (.480), assists (15.4) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.29). Individually, Kyle Weems is 5th in scoring (15.0), 2nd in FG percentage(.529), and 4th in three-pointers (2.4), while Adam Leonard is 2nd in three-pointers (2.9), 1st in 3-point pct. (.476), and 11th in free throw percentage (.792). Jermaine Mallett is 4th in assists (3.6), and 2nd in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.08).

Milestones: Justin Fuehrmeyer (Sr., G, St. Charles, Mo.) needs 3 assists for 250 career ... Isaiah Rhine (So., C, Versailles, Mo.) needs 1 point for 50 in his career and 1 field goal for 20 career ... Ryan Jehle (Jr., F, Overland Park, Kan.) needs 29 points for 200 career ... Caleb Patterson (So., C, Ames, Okla.) needs 13 points for 100 career ... Jermaine Mallett (Jr., F, Jackson, Miss.) needs 4 rebounds for 50 this season ... Kyle Weems (So., F, Topeka, Kan.) needs 6 rebounds for 200 career and 66 points for 500 career ... Head coach Cuonzo Martin needs 1 win for 20 in his head coaching career.

Mediacom Telecast: Today's game is one of eight Bears game 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 next MSU games on Mediacom will be Dec. 12 at Arkansas State and Dec. 19 at Saint Louis.  

Coors Player of the Week: After a game-high 19-point outing against Air Force on Saturday and 10 points in the road win at UALR, Kyle Weems (So., F, Topeka, Kan.) is the Coors Player of the Week for the second time this season. Weems matched a career-high with 5 three-pointers against Air Force, making 5-of-8 beyond the arc and recording a season-best 8 rebounds. In the UALR game, Weems shared team-high rebounding honors with 5 and was 4-of-8 from the field in helping the Bears to their first road win of the 2009-10 season.

Building the Program: On Wednesday, Nov. 11, Missouri State head coach Cuonzo Martin announced the receipt of National Letters of Intent from two high school prospects for the 2010-11 season. A third player committed to play for the Bears on Nov. 12.

 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 grade-point average, 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 per game as a prep junior. He also led Borgia in scoring and rebounding as a sophomore with a 17.1 scoring average to go with 5.7 rebounds. An inside/outside threat, he showed good range with 41 three-pointers last season, while posting 60 assists and 44 steals and making good on 53-percent of his field goal attempts.

 On Wednesday, Dec. 9, Scheer scored a career-high 36 points, including seven 3-pointers, to lead Borgia to a thrilling 78-75 come-from-behind victory over Whitfield for the Knights' 21st consecutive victory. Through 5 games in 2009-10 season, he is averaging 26.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists, with 19 three-pointers.

 Copeland helped his Fort Smith (Ark.) Northside squad to the Arkansas Class 7A quarterfinals last season, earning All-State honors and earning a spot on the State All-Tournament Team. He averaged 15.2 points per game and led his team in field goal percentage. He holds a 3.4 grade-point average 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.

 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-point field goal attempts. He is a reputable defender who uses his quickness to create offense, and has a great instinct for the game. Martin says Cooper has the potential to be a great on-ball defender which complements his skills as a scoring point guard. His father, Raymond, is also Cooper's high school and AAU coach.

Bears in the Pros: Blake Ahearn (2004-07) is playing in Spain for MMT Estudiantes Madrid. Through 10 games with the club, he is averaging 15.7 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 25.1 minutes per game. He is 30-for-69 (.435) from three-point range. The NCAA all-time free throw leader is 51-for-52 (.981) 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 NBA D-League All-Star Game after claiming league's Rookie of the Year honors in 2007-08. Ahearn had stints with the NBA's San Antonio Spurs and Miami 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 12.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per game through 11 games while making 55.1 percent of his field goal attempts.

 Shelton Colwell (2003-04) is active in Austria, averaging 18.0 points and 6.3 rebounds through the first 6 games of the season for the BSC Raiffeisen Fursten feld Panthers.

 Other former MSU players active in Europe last season were: Dale Lamberth (2006-08) who played five games in 2008-09 with UU-Korihait Uusikaupunki in Finland, averaring 6.0 points and 2.0 rebounds in limited playing time; Drew Richards (2005-08) who saw 15 games playing for Erdgas Ehingen/Urspringschule in Germany with 3.9 scoring and 6.7 rebounding averages. Other players will be added and updated in future game notes throughout the season.

 Former Bear Rodney Perry (1991-93) is coaching the Kansas City Stars of the American Basketball Association where Lamberth is now a team member.

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 in the lower division of the 10-team conference.

 Last season, the Bears were picked 10th in the league and finished 3-15 in the MVC.

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 7 of 17 home games, the Bears have drawn 42,129 fans and are averaging 6,018 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 7-0 at JQH Arena in 2009-10 and 16-8 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 1508-835 (.644) in 97 seasons and are 523-318 (.622) 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 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: The Bears continue a four-game road swing with a game at Saint Louis University next Saturday (Dec. 19) at 7:05 p.m. The Bears are 15-7 all-time against SLU. MSU then travels to Arkansas on Dec. 22 at 7:05 p.m. before opening Missouri Valley Conference play at Evansville on Dec. 29 (7:05 p.m.)



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