Missouri State Lady Bears (11-4, 3-1 MVC) vs. Indiana State Sycamores (9-5, 0-3 MVC) Dates: Saturday, January 16, 2010Time: 1:05 p.m.Site: JQH Arena (11,000)Location: Springfield, Mo.Radio: KWTO AM 560 (Rob Evans, Lynne Miller)TV: NoneLive Audio: www.radiospringfield.com Live Stats and Video: www.MissouriStateBears.comUpcoming: Jan. 18 vs. Illinois State
The Missouri State Lady Bears will try for their seventh straight home win Saturday (Jan. 16) when they meet the Indiana State Sycamores in a 1:05 p.m., contest at JQH Arena. Saturday's game begins the longest home stand of the conference season for MSU, which will also square off against Illinois State (Jan. 18) and Wichita State (Jan. 23).
After seeing their six-game win streak come to an end last Thursday at Drake, the Lady Bears bounced back with an 82-67 victory at Creighton, the preseason Missouri Valley Conference favorite, on Saturday. With the win, MSU climbed back into a first-place tie with Creighton and Drake.
Indiana State comes into Saturday's contest winless in its first three MVC games after dropping a 16-point home decision to Illinois State last Friday. The Sycamores have been tough away from Hulman Center in 2009-10, however, claiming wins in each of their first five road match-ups of the season.
► Missouri State will be shooting for its third straight win over the Sycamores after sweeping the season series from ISU last year for the 17th time in 27 seasons
► MSU's 11-4 start is its best since 2003-04, when the Lady Bears started the year 20-1
► Casey Garrison leads the MVC in assists (6.3) and scoring (18.3), ranking 14th and 37th, respectively, among all Division I players as of Jan. 12; she also leads the league in offensive rebounding (3.5), assist-turnover ratio (2.0) and minutes e (36.0), and ranks second in steals (2.9) and fourth in rebounding (7.9)
►The Lady Bears have been deadly at the foul line in MVC play, hitting 81.0 percent (94-of-116) of their free throw attempts
► Jaleshia Roberson's 3.0 three-point field goals per game leads the Valley and rates as the 14th best average in the nation
► Missouri State leads the Valley in scoring (77.5), scoring margin (+6.5), assists (15.7), steals (10.8) and three-point field goal percentage (.378)
Missouri State enters Saturday's match-up with a commanding 42-14 lead in the series with Indiana State. The Lady Bears swept the Sycamores last season, claiming a decisive 77-53 victory at JQH Arena (1/17) in what was perhaps their best all-around performance of the season. MSU also won a defensive battle in Terre Haute (2/14), using a 23-5 second-half run to come away with a 53-40 win at Hulman Center.
Despite losing two out of their last three meetings with the Sycamores in Springfield, the Lady Bears have been dominant on their home floor vs. ISU. MSU comes into Saturday's game with a 24-4 all-time home record in the series.
Nyla Milleson (Kansas State, '85) is in her third season as the head coach at Missouri State with a 32-43 mark as the Lady Bears' mentor and an overall record of 217-79 in 10 years as a collegiate head coach. Prior to taking the reins of the MSU program, the Goodland, Kan., native guided Drury University to a 185-36 record 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, advancing 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. Milleson is a perfect 5-0 against SIUE, with all five wins coming during her time at Drury. Including her 187 wins at the high school level, Milleson notched her 400th career coaching victory with MSU's win at Oral Roberts on Dec. 19. Against Indiana State, Milleson is 2-2, including a 1-1 mark in games played on the Lady Bears' home floor.
Jim Wiedie (Kent State, '88) is in his 10th season guiding the Sycamores and overall as a collegiate head coach, having compiled a 164-113 record. In 2005-06, Wiedie was named MVC Coach of the Year for a second time after leading ISU to the first outright MVC title in school history. The Sycamores earned their third trip to the postseason in four years under Wiedie after cruising through MVC play with a 16-2 mark. In 21 games against Missouri State, Wiedie's teams have gone just 6-15 overall and 2-9 vs. the Lady Bears in Springfield.
Scouting the Lady Bears
Missouri State entered the season looking for its first winning campaign in four years. Last year's edition of the Lady Bears went 10-20 overall and finished seventh in the Missouri Valley Conference behind a deep freshman class that accounted for 68 percent of the club's offensive production.
The Lady Bears have gotten balanced contributions across the board, as five players are averaging double figures in conference play coming into Saturday's contest. Sophomore Casey Garrison has picked up right where she left off a year ago when she led all Division I true freshman in total scoring. So far, the Bolivar, Mo., native is the top scorer (18.3 ppg.) and assister in the MVC, ranking 14th nationally in assists per game (6.3) and 37th in scoring as of Jan. 11. Garrison also ranks among the circuit's leaders in offensive rebounding (1st-3.5 rpg.), steals (2nd-2.9 spg.), minutes played (1st-36.0 mpg.), rebounding (3rd-7.9 rpg.), field goal percentage (7th-.500) and free throw percentage (10th-.811). Sophomore forward Lacey Boshe is MSU's third-leading scorer, averaging 10.1 ppg., while her .529 field goal percentage is tops on the club and ranks fourth in the conference. The Lady Bears' second-leading scorer, sophomore Jaleshia Roberson (14.5 ppg.) has posted two 30+ point games in MSU's last six outings. Roberson has connected on 42 of her last 87 (.483) three-point attempts and her 3.0 three-pointers per game ranked 14th in the country entering the week. Senior Melissa Busby is another MSU threat from long range, coming into Saturday's contest shooting .356 from beyond the three-point arc. The Edmond, Okla., native also ranks 10th on the Lady Bears' career three-point field goals chart with 119 makes.
As a team, Missouri State is outscoring the opposition by an average of 6.5 points per contest and shooting .442, while its defense has forced an average of 20.1 turnovers in 15 games this season. MSU's 77.4 ppg. average was the 20th-best in all of Division I women's basketball, while it's .378 shooting percentage from three-point range led the MVC and ranked 22nd nationally coming into the week.
Scouting the Sycamores
Indiana State returns nine letterwinners and four starters from last year's 14-16 squad that finished fifth in the Valley. The Sycamores were picked to finish fifth again this year and a strong first month of the season that saw ISU get off to a 7-0 start pointed to even bigger things. But after dropping four straight and five of their last seven games, the Sycamores come into Saturday's game winless in MVC play with a 9-5 overall mark.
Pacing the ISU attack is senior guard Kelsey Luna (16.5 ppg./2.6 spg.), a St. Louis native who earned First-Team All-MVC recognition last year and leads the Valley in free throw percentage (.954) so far this season. Luna, who missed the Sycamores final eight games of the 2008-09 season with a torn ACL, also ranks among the conference's leaders in steals (2nd) and scoring (4th). She receives help from a balanced cast that features four players averaging seven points or better. Center Shannon Thomas (9.8 ppg./6.4 rpg.) is the Sycamores' leading rebounder and one of the top shot-blockers in the circuit. The 6-4 sophomore also leads the league in field goal percentage (.616). Junior Kelsie Cooley has been a strong inside presence for ISU as well, coming into the week averaging 7.1 points and 5.8 boards per outing. Two more underclassmen, Deja Mattox and Taylor Whitley, have also performed well for ISU, posting identical 7.1 ppg., averages through the first 14 games of the season. Sophomore Brittany Schoen has made 13 starts for ISU and, along with Whitley, has the second-highest assist total (27) on the club.
As a team, Indiana State is one of the top defensive teams in the Valley, allowing just 61.0 points per contest. The Sycamores have permitted the opposition to shoot league-lows of .365 from the field and .319 from beyond the three-point arc.
So Far, So Good
MSU's 11-4 start is its best since the 2003-04 season, when it 20 of its first 21 games en route to a 28-4 finish and the school's 12th NCAA Tournament appearance. In each of the Lady Bears' last seven starts that included at least 11 wins in their first 15 games they have gone on to earn a bid to the Big Dance.
Lady Bears Land Hardware
For the second time in 2009-10, a pair of Lady Bears earned a clean sweep of the Missouri Valley Conference's weekly individual honors, as Jaleshia Roberson was named MVC Player of the Week, and Christiana Shorter picked up MVC Newcomer of the Week honors for the period Jan. 4-10.
The awards were the second of the season for both Roberson and Shorter. A sophomore from Kansas City, Roberson earned her first player of the week distinction of the season on Dec. 21 after connecting on 11-of-18 (.611) three-point attempts and 18-of-31 (.581) tries from the field overall in the MSU victories over Murray State and Oral Roberts. Shorter earned newcomer of the week laurels on Dec. 7, after picking up all-tournament recognition at the Commerce Bank Wildcat Classic in Manhattan, Kan.
The awards continued a recent stream of MVC honors for the Lady Bears, as MSU earned at least one of the two weekly citations from the Valley in five of the nine weeks the conference office has presented individual honors. Sophomore guard Casey Garrison earned MVC Player of the Week recognition on Dec. 14, following her triple-double against Tulsa, while freshman Whitney Edie earned MVC Newcomer of the Week that same day after posting a career-high 20 points in the win over the Golden Hurricane. Garrison also earned the league's player of the week for the period Nov. 23-29, after posting one of the most impressive all-around performances in Missouri State history with a 35-point, 17-rebound effort to propel the Lady Bears to a 73-65 win over Arkansas State (Nov. 27) in Jonesboro.
Hand it Over
Missouri State is leading the Missouri Valley Conference in team assists, coming into Saturday's game with a 15.7 apg. average. Casey Garrison's 6.3 assist per-game average is tops in the circuit, while Jaleshia Roberson ranks 11th among all Valley players with a 2.7 apg. average.
Garrison's 13-assist performance vs. Tulsa not only represented a new career high, but also set a JQH Arena record and helped the Lady Bears post their highest single-game assist total (25) in four seasons. Her total tied four others for the sixth-highest in school history and was the most recorded by a Missouri State player since March 8, 2003, when Kari Koch handed out 13 assists against Evansville.
Stealing the Show
Paced by the performance of sophomore guard Casey Garrison, Missouri State also leads the Valley in team steals. The Lady Bears are averaging 10.8 steals per outing to rank 41st in the nation, while Garrison is one of three Lady Bears to rank among the circuit's top performers in individual steals. The Bolivar, Mo., product is averaging 2.9 takeaways per game to rank second in the league and 29th among all Division I players, while Christiana Shorter and Jaleshia Roberson are also among the league's top 14 in steals. Shorter ranks 11th with a 1.6 spg. average, while Roberson is right on her heels in 14th with an average of 1.5 steals per outing.
With their win over league-leading Creighton, the Lady Bears put the brakes on a recent cold spell against their Valley neighbors to the north. The northern reaches of the Missouri Valley Conference have not been kind to the Lady Bears over the past few years, as MSU had won just two road games against Creighton, Drake, Bradley and UNI combined over the preceding four seasons. Including Thursday's loss to Drake in Des Moines, MSU had dropped 16 of their last 18 games away from home against the four northernmost schools in the Valley. Prior to last Saturday's win at CU, the Lady Bears had lost nine straight on the road vs. Drake and Creighton, and MSU was a combined 3-14 against the two schools on their home floors since the 2001-02 season.
No lead has been safe for Lady Bear opponents so far in 2009-10, as MSU has claimed victories in three games in which they have faced double-digit deficits. The Lady Bears trailed by as many as 12 against Bradley on Dec. 31, before rallying for a five-point win, then climbed out of an 11-point hole to post a 90-80 victory vs. UNI two days later. MSU also defeated UTEP on Dec. 4, after trailing the Miners by 11 in the first half. Prior to that win, the Lady Bears had not overcome a deficit of 10 points or more in nearly two seasons, dating back to a Jan. 12, 2008, victory over Southern Illinois.
Double Your Trouble
With her 32-point effort at ORU, Jaleshia Roberson joined fellow sophomore Casey Garrison in the Lady Bears' 30-point club, making the duo the first set of MSU teammates to top the 30-point barrier in the same season in nine years. The last Missouri State teammates to post 30-point performances during the course of the same season were Jackie Stiles and Tara Mitchem, who accomplished the feat during the Lady Bears' Final Four campaign of 2000-01.
Additionally, with her career-high 36-point effort at Drake last Thursday, Roberson became the first Lady Bear to post multiple 30+ point games in the same season since Tahnee Balerio recorded four such games in 2006-07. Roberson is just the 12th Lady Bear on record to score 30 or better in more than one contest in a given season.
Dial It Up
After shooting just under 27 percent from long range through their first three games of the season, the Lady Bears have heated up from three-point land over the last 11 games. MSU has shot .419 (78-of-186) from beyond the arc over that stretch, and its 13 three-pointers at ORU represented its best single-game total since Feb. 16, 2008, when it went 13-of-24 in a home win over UNI.
Additionally, the Lady Bears' eight threes vs. Tulsa (Dec. 8) represented a Missouri State high in JQH Arena. The Lady Bears had not hit more than six treys in any of their previous 17 contests in their new home. MSU has connected at least once from long range in 63 straight games and in 269 of its last 271 games dating back to the 2000-01 season.
Through the first 15 games of the season, the Lady Bears are outrebounding their opponents by an average of 0.7 boards per contest, finishing with the edge in total rebounds in two-thirds of their contests. While it may be too early to draw any conclusions, those figures lie in stark contrast to last season when MSU was outperformed on the boards by an average of 2.5 rebounds per game. Furthermore, the Lady Bears finished with an advantage in total rebounds in just nine of their 30 games last year.
Free and Easy
As was their calling card in 2008-09, the Lady Bears are once again gaining a measurable advantage at the free throw line. Through their first 15 games of the season, the Lady Bears are outscoring the opposition by a 273-195 margin at the foul line and lead the Valley in both free throws made and attempted. MSU has put up 97 more charity tosses than its opponents, an average of +6.9 per outing so far this season. Additionally, three Lady Bears rank among the MVC's top 15 free throw shooters coming into the week. Jaleshia Roberson's .854 percentage from the line is the fifth-best mark in the circuit, while Casey Garrison is 10th with a season mark of .811 from the stripe. Lacey Boshe has also been consistent from the foul line, shooting .774 coming into the week, which is good for 13th overall in the MVC.
Garrison knocked down her 200th career foul shot in her 45th game as a Lady Bear Saturday at Creighton. She reached the mark faster than all but two previous Lady Bears, trailing only Jackie Stiles (33 games) and Jessie McVay (43 games) in games required to convert 200 free throws. The Bolivar, Mo., native needs just 78 more makes to crack the MSU career top 10 chart for free throws made.
In Rare Company
Twice this season sophomore guard Casey Garrison has achieved feats only one previous player in Missouri State history had accomplished prior to the 2009-10 campaign. With her 35-point, 17-rebound performance at Arkansas State (Nov. 27), the sophomore guard joined Cindy Henderson (37 points/24 rebounds on Jan. 20, 1975) as the only other Lady Bear on record to score at least 35 points and record at least 15 rebounds in a single game. It was Garrison's second career double-double consisting of 30 points or more, making her only the fourth MSU player on record (along with Henderson, Jeanette Tendai and Jenni Lingor) to record more than one such game in her career.
Garrison quite possibly topped that effort on Dec. 8 vs. Tulsa when she became the second Lady Bear to record a triple-double with an 11-point, 11-rebound, 13-assist performance against the Golden Hurricane. MSU assistant coach Carly (Deer) Stubblefield was the only other Lady Bear to accomplish the feat (Jan. 23, 1998).
Buzz Cracks Century Mark
Senior guard Melissa Busby enters Saturday's game 10th on the school's all-time three-point field goals list with 119. MSU's active leader in games played (87), Busby also has a chance to climb further on the three-point attempts chart, coming into the contest seventh all-time with 361 tries from beyond the arc. The Edmond, Okla., native only needs one more triple to catch Jamie Bartlett in the ninth spot on the career three-point field goals list and 34 more attempts to match Sarah Klaassen (395) in the sixth position on the career attempts chart.