Bears Look to Rebound Wednesday With MVC Trip to Drake
Missouri State Travels to Drake for New Year’s Eve Showdown - The Missouri State Bears look to rebound from back-to-back home losses when they take to the road Wednesday (Dec. 31) afternoon for a rare mid-week afternoon game (2 p.m.) against the defending league champion Drake Bulldogs.
The Bears let a 15-point second half lead slip away on Sunday in their Missouri Valley Conference opener against preseason favorite Illinois State, eventually falling 72-69 in overtime to the Redbirds. Will Creekmore (6-9, So., C, Tulsa, Okla.) had game highs with 19 points and 11 rebounds in his first career start to pace the Bears, while Wade Knapp (6-8, Sr., C, Wakeeney, Kan.) posted 15 points and eight rebounds. Creekmore’s three-pointer at the end of regulation beat the horn and tied the game, 55-55, to force overtime. Sunday’s game also marked the return of Shane Laurie (6-2, Sr., G, Springfield, Mo.) who suffered a concussion on October 3 and had not played this season. He had three points off the bench, while brother Spencer Laurie (6-1, Sr., G, Springfield, Mo.) scored 14 in his first non-starting role this season, including four three-pointers.
Sizing up the Opposition - The defending Missouri Valley Conference champions are off to a 9-4 start under first year head coach Mark Phelps (Old Dominion, 1996). The Bulldogs dropped their league opener on Sunday to Evansville, 76-65, despite 24 points from Josh Young. Drake shot under 35 percent in the game and made just 7-of-26 (.269) three-pointers.
Junior guard Josh Young (6-1, 170, 18.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg) is the Bulldogs’ top scorer and three-point shooter (33), while senior Jonathan Cox (6-8, Sr., F, 12.2, 8.1) and sophomore Josh Parker (6-0, 170, So, G, 10.5, 1.5) also average double figures in scoring for Drake. As a team, DU shoots 77.5 percent from the free throw line and has made 116 three-pointers (8.9 per game), while making good on 43-percent of their long-distance shots. Drake is 7-2 at the Knapp Center this season and is averaging 4,997 fans per game.
Last season, Drake (28-5, 15-3) won the Valley regular season and tournament titles and represented the MVC in the NCAA Tournament. In the NCAA first round, the Bulldogs bowed out on a last-second shot by Western Kentucky, 101-99, in overtime.
The Series - Missouri State leads the all-time series against Drake, 29-8, including a thrilling 86-83 win over the No. 21 Bulldogs in the final game at Hammons Student Center on Feb. 26, 2008 in Springfield. The Bears’ last win in Des Moines came on Jan. 31, 2007 in an 87-82 win. The Bears are 13-6 all-time in Des Moines and dropped a 65-54 decision in the Knapp Center on Jan. 12, 2008 in their most-recent game in the Drake’s home facility.
In two games against Drake last season, Chris Cooks scored 19 points, while Justin Fuehrmeyer and Spencer Laurie each scored 17 points. Fuehrmeyer also accounted for 10 total assists.
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 7-5 in his coaching tenure, including an 0-1 mark in MVC play and 6-3 mark at JQH Arena. He has never played or coached against Drake.
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 833 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 or 1490 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. The podcasts will be updated every Tuesday. The Podcasts are also available at iTunesU.
Television - The Bears will be featured eight times this season on Mediacom Connections (Channel 14 locally) with Don West providing the play-by-play and Dan Lucy serving as color commentator. 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: 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! - Today’s game will be shown on MSU’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.
Hobbs Leaves Team - On December 11, freshman guard Derron Hobbs made the decision to end his playing career with the Bears and return to his home in St. Louis at the end of this semester.
"We wish Derron the best in whatever direction he decides to go from here," said Missouri State head coach Cuonzo Martin. "This was a decision that he made on his own and for his own reasons."
Hobbs was hampered by an ankle sprain that forced him to miss the team’s first three regular season games before his return to action on November 28 against Utah. He scored three points in the Utah game with a pair of rebounds and an assist and followed that performance with a five-point outing against Arkansas-Little Rock on December 3. He played, but did not score in his only other game with the team on December 6 against Arkansas State.
"I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Martin gave me," Hobbs said. "Because of some personal circumstances, I have made the decision to move on."
The six-foot, 145-pound point guard is a product of Gateway Tech High School in St. Louis and did not travel with the team to Tulsa on December 10 while finalizing his decision.
Reset the Clock - All you need to know about the Bears for tonight’s game in 35 seconds or less . . . Missouri State is coming off an overtime loss to unbeaten Illinois State on Sunday, 72-69 . . . In the ISU Game, Will Creekmore (So., C, Tulsa, Okla.) had 19 points and 11 rebounds -- both game highs and career highs -- in his first-ever college start, including the game-tying three-pointer at the horn to force overtime . . . Chris Cooks (Sr., F, Idabel, Okla.) missed the Illinois State game with a concussion suffered in the Middle Tennessee game on December 22 . . . Shane Laurie (Sr., G, Springfield, Mo.) made his season debut against Illinois State after suffering a concussion in the preseason . . . The Bears have accounted for 58 offensive rebounds in their last four games (14.5) and have outrebounded their last two opponents, while averaging 35.5 total boards over that span . . . Spencer Laurie (Sr., G, Springfield, Mo.) needs just four points to reach 600 for his career (including 11 points at Missouri) and 15 points to reach 600 for his Missouri State career . . . Wade Knapp (Sr., F/C, Wakeeney, Kan.) is the only Bear to start all 12 games this season and needs 9 points and 6 rebounds to reach 200 points and 100 rebounds, respectively for his career.
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.
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 1,496-820 (.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).
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).
Road Tested - Missouri State has lost its last five road conference openers, last winning its first Valley road game in 2002-03 at Illinois State, 76-48. Last year, the Bears fell to SIU, 79-71, on Dec. 30.
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.
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 6-3 in the facility. The first opponent to beat Missouri State in the facility was Utah, 71-58, on November 26, 2008. MSU’s five-game home winning streak was snapped on December 22 by Middle Tennessee, 63-51, in the finals of the Basketball Travelers Tip-Off Tourney.
Brothers Are Back - Shane Laurie (Sr., G, Springfield, Mo.), a fourth-year senior, made his 2008-09 season debut on December 28 against Illinois State. He had been out of action since suffering a concussion on October 3 in a non-basketball injury and returned to individual drills and conditioning on December 11. He entered the ISU game at the 15:02 mark and played 17 minutes, collecting three points and an assist.
He and older brother Spencer Laurie (Sr., G, Springfield, Mo.) make up a rare brother backcourt duo, and they combined to account for all 17 of Missouri State’s 17 bench points in the Illinois State game.
Spencer and Shane have started together twice in their careers -- 11/10/07 at Toledo and 2/6/08 at Bradley -- both MSU losses.
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., 12.0), Kyle Weems (F, Topeka, Kan., 11.5), Wade Knapp (Sr., C, Wakeeney, Kan., 11.0) and Spencer Laurie (Sr., G, Springfield, Mo., 10.5) also averaged double figures in scoring, while Ryan Jehle (So., F, Overland Park, Kan.) averaged 9.0 points per game for the Bears in the exhibition season.
MSU surrendered just 58.5 points per game, forced 56 turnovers (28.0), and had a +8.0 rebound margin. The Bears also had 46 assists in the preseason and snagged 29 steals.
Keeping it Under 70 - The Bears are 7-1 this season when holding their opponents under 70 points. Missouri State is tops in the Missouri Valley Conference and 28th in Division I in scoring defense (59.1).
Only Auburn (75), Utah (71), Tulsa (70), and Illinois State (72) have scored more than 63 points against the Bears this season. All four were losses for Missouri State.
The only opponent to beat the Bears after scoring fewer than 70 points was Middle Tennessee, 63-51, on December 22 in the finals of the Basketball Travelers Tip-Off Tourney.
Mountain West / Missouri Valley Conference Challenge - In October, The Missouri Valley Conference and the Mountain West Conference announced an agreement 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.
Ahearn Back in Dakota - Missouri State alum Blake Ahearn (2003-07), the most accurate free throw shooter in NCAA Division I history, is back with the Dakota Wizards of the NBA Development League. In his first game with the Wizards, Ahearn scored 33 points against Reno on 10-of-16 shooting with six three-pointers and eight assists. In his three games with the club, he is averaging 24.0 points and 7.0 assists, including 26 points in Sunday’s win over Rio Grande.
He was reacquired by the Wizards on December 19 after being assigned November 30 to the Austin Toros -- the San Antonio Spurs’ D-League affiliate. While with Austin, Ahearn averaged nearly 19 points and over 6 assists in six games.
Ahearn signed with the NBA Spurs on November 16, and appeared in three games, averaging 2.7 points in 6.3 minutes in his second stint in the NBA. The Spurs were 6-2 with Ahearn.
This fall, he was in Minnesota’s training camp where he averaged 7.8 points and 1.2 assists in five games preseason. After being waived by the Timberwolves he joined the D-League’s Dakota Wizards where he was in camp prior to signing with the Spurs.
Last season, Ahearn was named Rookie of the Year in the NBA Development League. In 41 games for the Dakota Wizards, he averaged 19.0 points, 3.5 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 29.4 minutes. He shot 49 percent (239-492) from the field, including 108-for-246 from three-point range, and 96 percent (191-199) from the line. At the end of the season, 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.
Elsewhere, former Bear Deven Mitchell is playing for the Arkadia Traiskirchen Lions in the Austrian league and is averaging 24.0 points and 4.9 rebounds through nine games, including a 39-point game on Dec. 5.
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 drove up his stock over the summer with his performance on the Rameybasketball.com squad.
The Creek Rises - Will Creekmore (6-9, 242, So., C, Tulsa, Okla.) made his Missouri State debut on November 20 against Norfolk State and scored four points with two rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench. The next night against UC Irvine (12/21/08), he had eight points in the first half and finished with six rebounds, both career highs.
He made his first career start against Illinois State on 12/28/08 and had game and career highs with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while playing 32 minutes.
He transferred to MSU during the spring 2008 semester from Boston University where he 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.
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 joins younger brother Shane Laurie and junior Justin Fuehrmeyer (G, St. Charles, Mo.) as the team’s three returning starters.
Dunk-O-Meter - Through 12 games this season, the Bears have 10 dunks to their credit as follows:
Wade Knapp 6
Isaiah Rhine 2
Kyle Weems 2
MSU opponents now have 17 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, 270-238, in the paint this season.
Coors Players of the Week - The Missouri State Coors Player of the Week for the week of December 21-27 is Will Creekmore (6-9, 242, So., Tulsa, Okla.).
In his first career start on December 28, Creekmore had game-highs 19 points and 11 rebounds in the MVC opener against Illinois State. He made good on 7-of-9 free throws, played 32 minutes, and came up with five offensive rebounds in the game in addition to nailing a pair of three-pointers, including the game-tying three at the horn to force overtime in the narrow 72-69 loss to Illinois State.
The transfer from Boston University became eligible on December 20 and is averaging 8.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in his first four games. He averaged just 14.6 minutes in his first three games as a Bear before getting the starting call and making the most of it.
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.)
December 7-13 - Wade Knapp (Sr., C, Wakeeney, Kan.)
December 14-20 - Chris Cooks (Sr., F, Idabel, Okla.)
December 21-27 - Will Creekmore (So., C, Tulsa, Okla.)
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.
Up Next . . . Missouri State will play three of its next five on the road, but returns to JQH Arena on Saturday (7:05 p.m.) for a league home game against Bradley. The Bears then return to the road with games at Evansville (Jan. 7) and Northern Iowa (Jan. 10).