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Lady Bears set to battle defending MVC champs



The Missouri State Lady Bears (3-11, 1-2) continue to navigate through a difficult early portion of the Missouri Valley Conference schedule with a 2:05 p.m. matchup Saturday (Jan. 12) afternoon at Hammons Student Center against the defending MVC regular-season champions, the Southern Illinois Salukis (6-7, 2-1).

After starting the conference season with road losses to Drake and Creighton last weekend, the Lady Bears notched their first Valley win with an 11-point victory over Evansville at Hammons on Thursday. SIU won its MVC opener against Indiana State before dropping a four-point decision at home to league-leading Illinois State last Saturday. The Salukis rebounded with a 66-61 victory at Wichita State Thursday for their second conference win.

Saturday’s game will be broadcast locally in Springfield on KTXR 101.3 FM and on the web at www.radiospringfield.com.

Last Time Out: Melissa Busby knocked down three critical second-half three-pointers, and Missouri State connected on 9-of-10 free throw attempts down the stretch to knock off Evansville 76-65 for their first MVC win of the season.

Busby, who scored 10 of her 13 points in the second half, buried three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to turn a four-point MSU lead into a 56-46 ballgame with just over six minutes left in the game, and her fourth trey of the night at the 3:47 mark gave the Lady Bears a 12-point cushion, their largest of the half.

Evansville would rally late in the game behind the play of Ashley Austin, who scored all 15 of her points in the second half, including eight in the final 2:39. Austin connected from three-point range with 1:11 left on the clock to cut the MSU lead to 67-63 immediately following a UE steal of an inbound pass that came after she had completed the back end of a three-point play.

But the Lady Bears would salt the game away with an outstanding effort from the free throw line over the final 1:02. Tahnee Balerio, who tallied 13 of her 16 points in the second stanza, was a perfect 6-of-6 and Jasmyne Watson converted 3-of-4 tries from the charity stripe during that stretch to put the finishing touches on MSU’s first conference win in their last six tries and just their third win in 14 outings in 2007-08.

Behind Busby’s 4-of-7 performance from beyond the arc, Missouri State shot 50 percent (9-of-18) from three-point range while holding the Purple Aces to just .276 (8-of-29) shooting from long range. The Lady Bears enjoyed their second-best shooting night of the season, hitting 46 percent (23-of-50) from the field and 21-of-27 from the foul line.

Junior forward Maggie Dwyer led MSU with 17 points to go along with six boards, three steals and a pair of assists.

The Coaches: Nyla Milleson (Kansas State, ’85) is 3-11 in her first season as the head coach at Missouri State and 188-47 overall. The Goodland, Kan., native led Drury University to a 185-36 mark in seven seasons, highlighted by a national runner-up finish in 2003-04. In all, the Lady Panthers made five NCAA Division II Tournament appearances and advanced to the Sweet 16 in four of those years. Milleson was honored as Heartland Conference Coach of the Year four times, as Drury won five conference titles in all.

Dana Eikenberg (Penn State, 92) is in her fourth season as head coach of the Salukis, having compiled a 40-60 record at SIU and a 78-134 mark overall in eight seasons as a collegiate head coach. After a 3-24 campaign in her first year (2004-05), Eikenberg led the Salukis to a 10-18 season in 2005-06, breaking a string of four-straight last-place MVC finishes for SIU. Last year Eikenberg led SIU to a 21-11 record and the MVC regular-season title, the first for Southern Illinois since the 1989-90 season. As a result, she was named Rawling’s MVC Coach of the Year. The Clinton, Ill., native came to Carbondale after a successful four-year stint as head coach at UMKC.

Series Record: Missouri State leads the series with SIU 33-24 and, despite two losses to the Salukis last season, has dominated the matchup over the past two decades.

SIU posted its first regular-season sweep of the Lady Bears since the 1988-89 season and snapped a 19-game losing streak against MSU with a 63-38 victory in Springfield last season en route to a 16-2 MVC season and their first conference title since earning a share of the Gateway crown in 1989-90.

Scouting Southern Illinois: The Lady Bears and Salukis share three common non-conference opponents this season. SIU dropped a 78-63 contest to nationally-ranked DePaul in Carbondale on Nov. 10 in its season opener, while MSU lost to the Blue Demons in Chicago, 80-48, in early December. The Salukis also lost to Western Kentucky (88-71) at the George Washington Thanksgiving Tournament and Green Bay (82-65) in their final non-conference game on Dec. 29 in Carbondale. The Lady Bears also fell to both the Lady Toppers and the Phoenix. WKU claimed an 82-64 victory in Bowling Green on Dec. 29, and Green Bay escaped Hammons with a 78-68 win in MSU’s home opener on Nov. 17.

The Salukis enter Saturday’s contest as the MVC’s second-ranked team in three-point field goal percentage (.374), scoring offense (71.7 ppg.), field goal percentage (.432) and turnover margin (+4.46), and the No. 3 team in the Valley in steals (8.7) and assist/turnover ratio (0.96).

Southern Illinois has been playing short-handed due to injuries for much of the season, with only 10 Salukis seeing court time so far in 2007-08. Leading scorer Jasmine Gibson, whose 17.1 points per game paces all MVC scorers, missed Thursday’s game at Wichita State and her status for Saturday’s contest is uncertain. The 5-10 forward ranks second in the league in free throw percentage (.889) and fifth in field goal percentage (.522). SIU has also gotten balanced all-around performances from the trio of Ellen Young, Jayme Sweere and Erica Smith. Sweere ranks seventh in the MVC in scoring, contributing 14.3 points per game, and sixth in rebounding with a team-high 6.8 rpg. average. A 5-9, Springfield, Mo., native, Sweere also chips in 3.2 assists and 0.6 blocks per outing. The MVC’s third-leading three-point shooter (.446), Young is ninth in the conference with a 13.2 ppg. average. Smith (11.7 ppg/6.3 rpg.) ranks among the MVC’s top 10 in a number of categories, including rebounding, three-point field goal percentage (fourth), field goal percentage (sixth), assists (ninth), steals (first), blocks (eighth), offensive rebounds (seventh), assist/turnover ratio (sixth) and minutes played (fifth).

Holding Aces: Missouri State’s first Missouri Valley Conference win of the season, a 76-65 victory over Evansville on Thursday, snapped a streak of five straight losses in MVC regular season play and six in a row against Valley opponents, including last season’s loss to Bradley in the State Farm MVC Tournament.

The victory over the Purple Aces gave head coach Nyla Milleson her first career MVC win and was the Lady Bears’ first victory in an MVC home opener since defeating Evansville (1/6/05) at the start of the 2004-05 conference season. It also prevented the third straight 0-3 start to an MVC season for Missouri State.

Coupled with a 97-89 win over Canisius (Dec. 21) in their last home game, the Lady Bears have won consecutive games at Hammons for the first time in over a year. The last time they posted back-to-back victories at home came in December 2006, when they defeated Oregon (Dec. 15) and Western Illinois (Dec. 21) to close out the non-conference season.

A Look At The Numbers: Several Lady Bears rank among the Missouri Valley Conference’s statistical leaders through the first three conference games. In addition to Tiff Terwelp being the league’s No. 2 rebounder, Maggie Dwyer ranks second in the MVC in offensive rebounds (2.9 rpg.), eighth in scoring (13.9) and 10th in three-point field goal percentage (.386). Additionally, Terwelp is third in offensive rebounding (2.9 rpg.) and Jacque Griggs ranks ninth (2.1) in that same category. Tahnee Balerio currently ranks fourth in the Valley in assists per game (4.2), sixth in minutes played per game (32.6), ninth in free throw percentage (.787) and 10th in steals (1.6 spg.). Melissa Busby is No. 7 in three-point field goal percentage (.400) and fifth overall in three-point field goals made (2.0 per game).

As a team Missouri State is second in the Valley in total rebounding at 41.1 rpg., but 10th in rebounding defense at 42.5 rpg. The Lady Bears are second in both offensive rebounds (15.4 rpg.) and blocked shots (2.9 per game), and fourth in three-point field goals made (6.8 per game).

Missouri State ranks either last or next-to-last in eight categories, including scoring defense, scoring margin, free-throw percentage, field goal percentage, assists, turnover margin, assist-to-turnover margin and rebounding defense.

Balerio Takes Aim at 1,000: Senior guard Tahnee Balerio is closing in on yet another career milestone, as she needs just nine points to become the 19th player in school history to join the 1,000-point club. Sarah Klaassen was the last Lady Bear to accomplish the feat, surpassing the mark in MSU’s win over Drake in the quarterfinal round of the 2006 State Farm MVC Tournament.

Climbing the Charts: Balerio moved by Gail Beck into the 19th spot on Missouri State’s career scoring chart with her 966th career point in a 79-73 loss at Creighton on Jan. 6.

With her 17-point effort versus UTSA (Nov. 29), Balerio topped the 900 career point mark and moved up to the No. 20 spot on the Lady Bears’ career scoring chart. Balerio’s first field goal of the night against the Roadrunners with 17:04 to play in the first half pushed her past Lynne Miller and Kimberly Scoggin, who previously shared the 20th spot at 891 career points.

Senior forward Tiff Terwelp also broke into the top 30 when she scored her 731st career point vs. DePaul (Dec. 2) to move past Meg Tierney for the 30th spot.

Windex Woman: Terwelp has been the Lady Bears top rebound in each of the past two seasons, averaging 8.3 boards per game entering Saturday’s game, good for second in the Valley.

Earlier this season, Terwelp cleaned the glass to the tune of 18 rebounds in the loss at ASU. That effort matched single-game performances by Lynn Strubberg (1/28/83 at Northwest Missouri St.) and Roshonda Reed (1/16/99 at Indiana St.) for the third-highest rebound total in MSU history. Terwelp’s previous career-high of 16 boards came in a 70-51 loss at Tulsa last December.

The Quincy, Ill., product nearly equaled that effort last Sunday (Jan. 6) at Creighton when she pulled down 17 rebounds, her fifth double-digit rebounding game of the season.

More Charting: Terwelp broke into MSU’s career rebounding top 10 with her 14-board effort in last Friday’s (Jan. 4) loss at Drake. She passed LaTanya Davis (648) for the No. 10 spot on Friday, then climbed all the way to No. 8 with her 17-rebound performance in a 79-73 overtime loss at Creighton on Sunday (Jan. 6), passing both Sandy Meyer (661) and Karen Rapier (666). Terwelp needs 22 more to catch Kelly Mago (696) in the seventh position.

On The Road Again: Since snapping a seven-game road losing streak with an 83-76 win over Indiana State in Terre Haute last January, the Lady Bears have dropped their last 15 contests on the road and their last 16 away from Hammons Student Center overall. Over the last three seasons, Missouri State has won just two true road games and only four of its 35 games away from Hammons.

Valley Openers: With their loss at Drake Friday, the Lady Bears are now 11-5 in Missouri Valley Conference openers and 18-7 overall in conference openers since formal competition began in the Gateway in 1983. The defeat was MSU’s largest loss in MVC regular-season play since an 84-47 setback at Creighton six years ago (1/6/02).With Sunday’s overtime loss at Creighton, MSU started conference play 0-2 for the third consecutive season.

On this Date in Lady Bears History: January 12, 1995 - Missouri State 52, Bradley 39 - Led by 26 points from Charitee Longstreth, MSU’s starting frontcourt accounted for 42 of the team’s 52 points in a low-scoring battle in Peoria. The Lady Bears, who never trailed in the contest, had just three turnovers in the first half and used a 10-0 burst late in the period to lead 29-19 at the break. Missouri State put the game away by scoring the first eight points of the second half. The victory marked just the second time in 97 games that MSU held an opponent under 40 points.

Preseason Picks: Missouri State was picked to finish seventh in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll of coaches, media and sports information directors. The Lady Bears received 136 points, while preseason favorite Drake received 24 of 40 first-place votes and 348 total points.

MSU Peaks in The Valley: The Lady Bears are 196-73 all-time against Valley opponents with a 116-20 home record against league foes. Since joining the MVC in 1992, the Lady Bears have won at least a share of eight regular-season titles and seven conference tournaments. Missouri State has played in 10 of the 15 Valley tournament championship games.

Instant O: After averaging just 57.8 points per game in their first eight contests of the season, the Lady Bears scored 176 points combined against Oral Roberts (Dec. 15) and Canisius (Dec. 21). That figure represents the best two-game scoring total for MSU since December 2004, when the Lady Bears knocked off Saint Louis (86-56) and Eastern Kentucky (91-81) in succession. Additionally, MSU’s 97 points vs. Canisius represented the highest point total by a Lady Bear club since a 107-53 win over Evansville on March 8, 2003.

Century Mark for Terwelp, Balerio: Tiff Terwelp played in her 100th career contest for Missouri State in the loss at Oral Roberts (Dec. 15), becoming the 34th Lady Bear to top the century mark in games played. Fellow senior Tahnee Balerio also reached the 100-game plateau for her MSU career in Sunday’s (Jan. 6) loss at Creighton.

Balerio Back in Gear: Balerio was a driving force in the Lady Bears’ offensive in their last three non-conference games. After totaling just 14 assists in MSU’s first eight games, the Buhler, Kan., native registered a career-high 12 against Oral Roberts, then handed out 10 in both the win over Canisius and an 82-64 loss at Western Kentucky (Dec. 29). Balerio also tallied 17 points in the victory over Canisius, matching her best scoring effort since a 20-point performance in the Lady Bears’ season-opener at Texas (Nov. 11).

Busby Makes Her Mark: Sophomore guard Melissa Busby has made the most of her return to the Missouri State starting lineup, totaling 68 of her 87 points on the season in the Lady Bears’ last three non-conference contests.

In her first start of the season Busby connected on 6-of-11 three-point tries and led the Lady Bears with a career-high 24 points in a 96-79 loss at Oral Roberts (Dec. 15). She followed that up with another strong offensive showing in the Lady Bears’ win over Canisius (Dec. 21). Busby knocked down six three-pointers in the first half and finished with 23 points for the game on 7-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc. She matched that shooting performance with a 7-of-11 effort against Western Kentucky. The Edmond, Okla., native knocked down six treys in the second half versus the Lady Toppers to finish with 21 points, her third 20+ point performance in a row.

Mags to Riches: Junior forward Maggie Dwyer found her shooting stroke over the Lady Bears’ last six non-conference contests. While averaging a team-high 17.8 points per game over that stretch, Dwyer shot .430 from the field, including .429 from three-point range after connecting on just 28.6 percent of her field-goal attempts in Missouri State’s first five games of the season. She averaged team highs of 32.0 minutes and 6.8 boards per contest in the Lady Bears final six games leading up to the conference season.

No Cupcakes Here: Missouri State’s 11 non-conference opponents have combined to go 98-63 (.609) in 2007-08 (through games of Jan. 10). The Lady Bears’ schedule has produced two games against ranked opponents (#22 Texas and #17 DePaul), and all but Tulsa (5-9), Saint Louis (5-10) and Canisius (7-8) are at the .500 mark or above.

For the Record Books: The Lady Bears’ 96-79 loss at Oral Roberts (Dec. 15) will be remembered for several significant individual performances that left their mark on the Missouri State record book. Busby’s six treys matched seven other performances by a Lady Bear for the 10th-most three-point field goals made in a single game. Melody Howard (twice), Tina Robbins (12/5/93 at Iowa), Jackie Stiles (twice) and Kari Koch (twice) also buried six triples in a game for MSU.

Balerio’s seven steals marked a new career high for the senior point guard and equaled the single-game efforts of 13 other Lady Bears for the seventh-best all-time performance in school history. Additionally, Balerio’s 12 assists matched her career best in that category (2/23/06 vs. Creighton) and ranks as the No. 10 single-game total, along with 11 other such performances by MSU players.

Double Trouble: A Lady Bear has finished in double figures in rebounding in nine of MSU’s last 12 contests. Four different players have posted double-digit rebound games in that span, and three of those have registered point-rebound double-doubles, including Tiff Terwelp (vs. Arkansas State and Creighton), Jacque Griggs (vs. UALR) and Maggie Dwyer (vs. Tulsa and Western Kentucky). In all, nine Lady Bears have established new single-game rebounding highs so far in 2007-08.

Dwyer Honored: Junior forward Maggie Dwyer received her second MVC Newcomer of the Week honor Dec. 26 following a career-high 29-point effort in MSU’s win over Canisius (Dec. 21). Dwyer was similarly honored Dec. 10 after averaging a team-best 15 points to go along with six boards as Missouri State split its two contests against Tulsa and Saint Louis.

Behind Dwyer’s 10-of-21 shooting performance against Canisius, MSU shot a season-high 50 percent from the floor, and its 97 points represented the Lady Bears’ best offensive showing since the 2002-03 season. Dwyer established a new career scoring high for the third consecutive game, pouring home 17 in the second half to help the Lady Bears turn around a one-point halftime deficit and pick up their second win of the season.

Missouri State took control of the game for good when Dwyer’s three-point play with 16:18 left in the game turned a 54-52 Lady Bear lead into a five-point advantage and sparked a 29-14 run that saw MSU stretch its lead to as many as 17 points. The Grand Haven, Mich., product accounted for 12 points during the decisive Missouri State scoring spurt and finished the night with seven rebounds and three assists.

Adams Arrives: The Lady Bears received a boost with the addition of Jamie Adams, a two-year MSU volleyball starter who began practicing with the Lady Bears the week of Dec. 10. Adams scored four points, grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and recorded two blocks in her Lady Bear debut vs. Oral Roberts (Dec. 15).

Adams, who will have two years of basketball eligibility, earned second-team All-MVC honors in 2006 and 2007 and helped the volleyball Bears to three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Balerio on Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award Watch List: In recognition of her accomplishments both on and off the court, senior guard Tahnee Balerio has been selected as one of 30 initial candidates for the 2007-08 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award for women’s basketball.

Lowe’s Senior CLASS (an acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School) Award recognizes college senior athletes who remain committed to their university and pursue the many rewards that a senior season can bring.

Balerio is one of 30 candidates in the running for the 2008 women’s basketball award, for which 10 finalists will be selected in early February. The winner will be announced at the Women’s Final Four in Tampa, Fla., during the weekend of April 5-6.

One Down: MSU’s 72-61 victory over Tulsa on Dec. 4 allowed the Lady Bears to cross a number of items off their to do list, including:

►posting their first win of the 2007-08 season after six straight losses to begin the campaign;

►giving new head coach Nyla Milleson her first win at MSU and as a Division I head coach;

►halting a school record-tying 10-game losing streak dating back to February of 2007;

►ending a four-game home losing streak, their longest since the 1985-86 season;

Welcome Wagon: Milleson and her staff have received four commitments to join the Lady Bears in 2008 during the November early signing period. Local products Lacey Boshe (Marshfield, Mo.) and Casey Garrison (Bolivar, Mo.) will be joined by a pair of Texas prep standouts, Jasmine Malone (San Antonio) and Regan Soldner (Southlake) in the class of 2008.

Lord, Wyett Leave Lady Bears: Sophomore center Ashley Lord and junior forward Breton Wyett have elected to leave the Lady Bear program.

Lord played in all 28 games for the Lady Bears as a freshman in 2006-07, starting 18 contests while averaging 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds. This season, the Moran, Kan., native saw action in each of MSU's first three contests, averaging 0.7 points and 2.0 rebounds in just 6.7 minutes of playing time per game.

Wyett was the Lady Bears' second-leading scorer last year, averaging 10.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per outing while shooting a team-high .462 from the field. She led the Missouri Valley Conference in blocks per game with a 1.96 average and recorded 45 blocks in all, the fourth-highest single-season total in MSU history. Wyett leaves Missouri State as the program's No. 2 all-time shot-blocker with 96 career rejections.

700/600 Club: Tiff Terwelp became the 12th Lady Bear to reach the career 700-point, 600-rebound plateau when she grabbed a team-high 10 boards in MSU’s loss to UTSA (Nov. 29). The Quincy, Ill., native surpassed the 700-point mark with a nine-point effort vs. Green Bay on Nov. 17.

Balerio Cracks Career Top 10 Lists: Senior guard Tahnee Balerio passed Jamie Bartlett for the No. 6 spot on MSU’s career top 10 chart for three-point field-goal attempts with her only attempt of the night against Saint Louis (Dec. 7). She enters Saturday’s game needing 30 more tries to reach the fifth spot on the chart, currently held by Sarah Klaassen.

Balerio also moved past current Lady Bear assistant coach Carly (Deer) Stubblefield for the No. 9 slot on MSU’s all-time three-point field goals list last season with her 72nd career trey in a 68-65 loss at Wichita State (2/3/07). Balerio now has 110 career threes, which is 10 shy of Bartlett in the eighth spot on the chart.

The Buhler, Kan., native is eighth all-time in free throw percentage (.813) and 10th in free throws made (271) at MSU.

For Openers: With their 92-55 loss at #22 Texas, the Lady Bears are now 20-19 all-time in season openers and have dropped their last four contests on opening night. The 37-point setback is the largest margin of defeat in a MSU season opener since the Lady Bears lost a 43-point decision (94-51) at Arkansas to start the 1985-86 season. It is also MSU’s worst loss since Jan. 6, 2002, when it fell by an 84-47 score at Creighton.

This season marks the fifth year in a row Missouri State has played its first game away from Hammons Student Center. Last year, MSU lost to Iowa, 79-70, in its season opener in Kansas City after dropping the first game of 2005-06 at Arkansas State and its 2004-05 opener at Richmond.

MSU vs. Ranked Opponents: With its 80-48 loss at #17 DePaul on Dec. 2, Missouri State dropped to 0-2 vs. ranked opponents on the season. The Lady Bears are now 19-36 all-time versus ranked opponents and have lost 10 straight against top 25 teams.

Missouri State’s last win over a ranked foe came against Gail Goestenkors’ fifth-ranked Duke Blue Devils in the 2001 NCAA West Regional semifinal (3/24/01).

MSU’s season opener at #22 Texas was the Lady Bears’ first opener versus a ranked opponent since the 2000-01 season when they defeated #10 LSU, 85-75. MSU is 2-2 all-time versus ranked teams in season openers.

Missouri State Postseason Run: One or both of the MSU basketball teams have made postseason appearances in each of the last 22 years.

With last year’s 7-21 finish, the Lady Bears missed the postseason for the first time since the 1996-97 season. The MSU women have seen postseason action in nine of the past 10 years and in 15 out of the last 17 seasons, dating back to the 1990-91 campaign.

Lady Bear Captains: Senior Tahnee Balerio, senior Tiff Terwelp and junior Tiffany Coppage will serve as tri-captains for the 2007-08 season. This marks the second year in a row Balerio and Terwelp have been selected Lady Bear captains.

If You Build It They Will Come: The Lady Bears are playing their 32nd and final season in Hammons Student Center in 2007-08. Missouri State broke ground on the $67 million JQH Arena on Dec. 21, 2006 in the east parking lot adjacent to Hammons. The new 11,000-seat arena is slated for completion in time for the start of the 2008-09 basketball season. Last year the Lady Bears drew 81,349 fans, or an average of 5,424 per contest, good for 18th in the nation. Missouri State has ranked in the top 20 nationally in average attendance in each of the last 17 seasons, including 1992-93 when the Lady Bears led all of Division I in that category.

Home Sweet Hammons: The Lady Bears are 322-105 (.754) at home since HSC opened in 1976-77. MSU has had 24 winning seasons, four losing campaigns and three seasons at .500 at HSC. The Lady Bears have gone undefeated at HSC six times (1989-90, 1991-92, 1993-94, 1995-96, 2000-01, 2003-04). From Dec. 18, 1990 to Dec. 27, 1992 the Lady Bears won 30 consecutive games at Hammons Student Center. MSU also had a 24-game winning streak dating from Feb. 15, 2003 before falling at home to #1 LSU in December of 2004. Over the last 18 seasons, Missouri State has averaged more than 13 wins per season and fewer than three losses in that same time. Missouri State has ranked in the top 15 nationally in attendance for 15 of the last 17 seasons and has been in the top 10 in 11 of those years.

Missouri State All-Time: Missouri State is in its 39th season of women’s collegiate basketball and has an all-time record of 656-447 (.595) for a total of 1,103 games. MSU began formal competition in 1969 and has now posted 26 winning seasons and made 13 NCAA Tournament appearances. The Lady Bears advanced to the Final Four in 1992 and 2001 and the Sweet Sixteen in 1993.



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