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Lady Bears Set for Prime-Time Match-up with Illinois State



Missouri State Lady Bears (5-11, 1-4 MVC)

vs.  Illinois State Redbirds (12-4, 3-1 MVC)
When: Monday, Jan. 19, 2009 at 7:05 p.m. Where: JQH Arena (Springfield, Mo.)
Radio: KTXR 101.3 FM TV: Fox Sports Midwest (MVC TV)
Live Stats: http://www.missouristatebears.com/



Game Overview

The Missouri State Lady Bears face their biggest challenge of the Missouri Valley Conference season when they welcome the Illinois State Redbirds to JQH Arena Monday evening for a 7:05 p.m. game. MSU will be looking to build some momentum after an impressive 77-53 victory over Indiana State on Saturday, while the Redbirds will continue their quest to capture another MVC title after sharing the honor last year. ISU claimed a three-point victory at Wichita State Saturday in a back-and-forth battle to improve to 3-1 in league play.

    Missouri State will be looking to reverse its recent luck in the series with Illinois State, as the Redbirds have taken four straight games from the Lady Bears and six out of the last seven meetings between the two schools. MSU still holds a 30-24 overall edge in the series, including a 17-9 advantage in games played on its home floor.


Quick Hits

Missouri State stopped a three-game losing streak in its series against Indiana State Saturday and will try to end its four-game skid vs. Illinois State Monday night

MSU’s 52 boards vs. Indiana State was its most in a game since 11/20/07 at Arkansas State (52)

Freshman guard Casey Garrison has averaged 18.4 ppg. over the Lady Bears’ first eight home games, and freshmen have accounted for 72.9 percent of Missouri State’s offense in those same eight contests

The Lady Bears have won their last three games played on Jan. 19


Last Time Out

The Lady Bears turned in one of their best all-around performances of the season to blow away the Indiana State Sycamores, 77-53, Saturday afternoon at JQH Arena. Missouri State hit a season-high 32 field goals and limited ISU to just 27.9 percent shooting from the field to stop the Sycamores five-game win streak and earn its first Missouri Valley Conference victory of the 2008-09 season.

    Casey Garrison’s 18-point, 11-rebound effort paced a Lady Bear attack that featured four players in double figures. The Bolivar, Mo., product also recorded a game-high five assists and totaled 14 points after intermission to post her second career double-double.

    MSU took control of the game with a 17-3 scoring spurt midway through the first half and never looked back. The Lady Bears dominated the Sycamores on both ends of the floor, connecting on 46.3 percent of their field goal attempts and forcing 16 Indiana State turnovers that they converted into a 24-5 edge in points scored off turnovers. MSU also enjoyed a 34-14 advantage in points in the paint and outrebounded the Sycamores by a 52-37 margin.

    Despite the sizable final scoring disparity, the Sycamores got off to a strong start and looked poised to continue a stretch of solid play that netted victories in their first four Valley games. ISU got back-to-back three-pointers from Brittany Schoen on its first two possessions, followed by a Kelsie Cooley bucket to take an 8-2 lead. Missouri State converted two of its first three field goal tries, but turned the ball over on five of its first eight possessions to fall in an early hole.

    But after ISU’s Shannon Thomas scored at the 14:30 mark to give the Sycamores a 10-4 advantage, the Lady Bears would make their move. Maggie Dwyer would drive the right baseline and score on a feed from Lacey Boshe to start a string of 10 unanswered points.MSU, which entered the ballgame shooting just .239 as a team from beyond three-point range, would heat things up from long range to outscore the Sycamores by 14 points over a six and-a-half minute stretch. Jaleshia Roberson connected on her first attempt from beyond the arc to give the Lady Bears their first lead of the game with 12:20 to go in the half. The freshman guard would hit another triple with 8:44 left on the clock to make it a 19-13 contest, and would finish the half with eight of her 11 points on the day.

    Three minutes after Roberson’s trey, Melissa Busby would follow suit, hitting her first three of the conference season to push the lead to 24-16. Busby converted an old-fashioned three-pointer with just over three minutes to go, and baskets by Jacque Griggs and Boshe on consecutive possessions made it a 33-21 Lady Bear advantage, their largest of the period.

    The Lady Bears kept the pressure on at the start of the second stanza, extending its lead to 17 with another 10-0 run after ISU’s Kelsey Luna drained a three-pointer on the Sycamores’ first possession of the half.

    ISU, which fell to 4-1 in the conference and 8-8 overall, managed to trim the margin to 12 points, before Busby turned in a sequence where she blocked a shot, corralled the loose ball, then canned a three-pointer in transition to push the lead to 46-31 with 14:48 to play. The Sycamores would get no closer than 13 points the rest of the way, and MSU extended its lead to as many as 25 late in the game before settling for the 24-point win--its biggest margin of victory this season.

    Missouri State’s team effort was aided by the resurgent performance of Busby, who tallied 13 points and career highs of nine rebounds and three blocks. Dwyer (12 points) also finished in double digits and added six boards, two assists and two steals, while Roberson pulled down a career-best five rebounds and matched another career-high with four assists.


The Coaches

Nyla Milleson (Kansas State, ’85) is in her second season as the head coach at Missouri State with a 16-30 mark as the Lady Bears’ mentor and an overall record of 201-66 in eight-plus years as a collegiate head coach. Milleson entered the 2008-09 season as the 24th-winningest active coach (.7809 win percentage) at all NCAA levels with at least five years head coaching experience. She led the Lady Bears to an 11-19 mark and a fifth-place Missouri Valley Conference finish in 2007-08. 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. (See page 7 for a complete bio)


Robin Pingeton (St. Ambrose, ’90) is in her sixth season as head coach of the Redbirds, having compiled an 101-69 record at Illinois State. Prior to taking over in Normal, Pingeton served as head coach at her alma mater, St. Ambrose, where she went 194-76 in eight seasons. She then moved on to Iowa State, where she assisted head coach Bill Fennelly for three seasons before accepting the Illinois State job in 2003.

    In 12 games against Missouri State, Pingeton’s teams have gone 6-6, including a 2-4 mark in Springfield vs. MSU.

Series History

Monday’s match-up will be the 55th meeting between the Lady Bears and Redbirds, with Missouri State currently holding a 30-24 edge. MSU has taken 17 of the previous 26 games played by the two schools in Springfield.

    Illinois State has won six of the last 10 meetings, including four straight from the Lady Bears. Last year, ISU outscored MSU 55-19 in the second half to record a 95-59 victory in Springfield. The Redbirds dominated on both ends of the floor, hitting 56 percent (18-of-32) of their second-half field goal attempts while holding the Lady Bears to just 6-of-36 (.167) shooting. ISU’s Maggie Krick scored 25 points on 7-of-9 shooting from three-point range to lead all scorers. In the rematch in Normal, Tiff Terwelp’s heroics weren’t enough for MSU to overcome the Redbirds’ 56 percent shooting from the field in a 78-66 ISU win. Illinois State grabbed control of the game for good with a 15-0 run and outscored the Lady Bears 48-14 in the paint.


Scouting Illinois State

Illinois State was the unanimous preseason choice to repeat as league champion after sharing the regular-season crown then besting the MVC Tournament field last year to earn the Valley’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid. So far, the Redbirds have done little to dampen those expectations. After starting the season 2-3, ISU reeled off nine straight wins before falling at Indiana State last weekend.

    Illinois State leads The Valley in a number of statistical categories entering Monday night’s game. Through its first 16 games, ISU is averaging a league-best 74.4 points and outscoring the opposition by a whopping 12.4 points per game. The Redbirds’ team field goal percentage of 44.9 was good for the 19th-best figure in all of Division I coming into the week. They are holding their opponents to just 36.2 percent shooting from the floor, also tops in the conference. ISU is also leading the conference in turnover margin (+1.06) and ranks second in blocks (4.3 bpg.) and assists (15.9 apg.) coming into the week. Additionally, the Redbirds ranked No. 10 in the nation in assist-turnover ratio entering the week. In all, the Redbirds rank in the upper half of the league standings in every major statistical category tracked by the conference office with the exception of steals (6.4 spg.).

    On an individual level, ISU is led by two-time reigning Jackie Stiles MVC Player of the Year Kristi Cirone, who enters Monday’s action with a league-high 18.8 point per game scoring average. The Chicago native is second in the circuit in assists (5.9 apg.) as well. Junior Maggie Krick (12.3 ppg.) is also scoring in double figures for the Redbirds, shooting a team-best 85.3 percent from the foul line. The 5-11 forward returned from a broken bone in her right hand to score 12 points versus Wichita State on Saturday. Sophomore guard Shala Jackson gives ISU a solid third option from the perimeter. Jackson averages 9.6 points and 4.2 boards per outing while shooting 41.5 percent from the floor.

    The Redbirds’ frontline is anchored by a pair of veterans in junior center Nicolle Lewis and junior forward Ashleen Bracey. Lewis is contributing 9.4 points and is ISU’s leading rebounder with a 6.6 rpg. average. Bracey is also scoring right around nine points per ballgame while pulling down just over six rebounds per game.


Lady Bears vs. Illinois State

Illinois State dominated the Lady Bears on the boards a year ago, outboarding MSU by a 92-60 margin in the two contests. The Redbirds also shot just over 50 percent from the floor, including 43.2 percent from three-point range, while limiting the Lady Bears to .361 shooting. On an individual level, Maggie Dwyer turned in the best numbers versus the Redbirds, averaging 10.0 points and 5.5 boards in the two losses. Roxy Stiles has averaged 6.8 points in four career outings against ISU, converting 40 percent of her field goal attempts and 83.3 percent of her free throw tries.


Power in the Paint

The Lady Bears dominated Indiana State on the interior Saturday, finishing with sizable advantages in total rebounds, points in the paint and blocked shots. MSU’s 52 rebounds represented a season high and the most registered by the Lady Bears since Nov. 20, 2007, when they grabbed 52 boards in a loss at Arkansas State. The Lady Bears’ seven blocks was also a season high and the most by MSU since Dec. 4, 2007 against Tulsa. Missouri State also enjoyed a solid shooting day versus the Sycamores, connecting on 25-of-41 (.610) field goal attempts inside the three-point arc and shooting 46.3 percent overall from the field.


Valley Openers

After their three-point setback to UNI on Jan. 2, the Lady Bears are 11-6 in Missouri Valley Conference openers and 18-8 overall in conference openers since formal competition began in the Gateway in 1983.

    The Lady Bears have dropped their first two conference games of each of the last four seasons. Additionally, MSU has lost its first three MVC games in three of the last four years.


Preseason Picks

Missouri State was picked to finish sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll of coaches, media and sports information directors. The Lady Bears received 215 points to finish behind Illinois State, Creighton, Drake, Evansville and UNI.

    Illinois State became the fourth team in MVC history to be a unanimous selection as the preseason No. 1 team and the first since 2001-02 when Drake received all 37 votes from the panel. The other two unanimous choices were the 1986-87 and 1987-88 Southern Illinois squads.

    Senior forward Maggie Dwyer was named to the league’s preseason all-conference team after earning second-team honors last season. The Grand Haven, Mich., native was also named MVC Newcomer of the Year in 2007-08, her first with MSU after transferring from Michigan State.


Number Five Leaving Her Mark

At the season’s half-way point, Casey Garrison is on pace to become the Lady Bears’ No. 2 freshman scorer since MSU made the move to Division I status in 1982. Garrison’s 258 points through the first 16 games of the season have already vaulted her to 12th on the list. She passed up three former Lady Bears on the chart with her 18-point effort Saturday vs. Indiana State and needs just four more points to move into the Top 10.

    Jackie Stiles is the current MSU freshman scoring leader, having poured home 618 points during the 1997-98 campaign.

    Garrison is also on target to become the first Lady Bear freshman to lead MSU in scoring, rebounding and assists over a complete season. The Bolivar, Mo., product is averaging team-highs of 16.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. She has led MSU in scoring 12 times, assists 11 times and rebounds five times.


200 For Milleson

MSU second-year head coach Nyla Milleson recorded her 200th career victory at the collegiate level with the Lady Bears’ 77-68 win over Chattanooga (Dec. 20) at the Caribbean Classic in Cancun, Mexico.

    Now 201-66 in her ninth year at the college level, Milleson came into the 2008-09 season as the 24th-winningest active collegiate coach at all levels with at least five years head coaching experience. Milleson also amassed a 187-77 overall record in 10 seasons as a high school coach, bringing her combined coaching record to 388-143 (.731) in 19 seasons.


Inside the Numbers

Missouri State continues to lead the Missouri Valley Conference in steals per game, entering  Monday’s game with a 9.4 spg. average. The Lady Bears rank sixth in team scoring (61.6 ppg.) and ninth in scoring defense (65.6). Among the league’s individual leaders, freshman guard Casey Garrison has wasted little time in making a name for herself. The Bolivar, Mo., product ranks in the MVC’s Top 10 for scoring (second), free throw percentage (sixth), assists (sixth), assist-turnover ratio (sixth) and steals (t-sixth). Also among the circuit’s leaders, Lacey Boshe is tied for sixth in field goal percentage (.500), and Jasmine Malone is 10th in steals (1.6 spg.).


Second-Half Surge, Part II?

Missouri State will kick off the second half of the season this weekend looking to duplicate the formula that revitalized its offense at the midway point of last season. The Lady Bears’ offensive turnaround over their last 16 conference games of 2007-08 was remarkable on several different levels. MSU outscored its opponents 70.6 to 68.6 points per game in going 9-7 over that stretch, shooting 41.1 percent from the floor, including 37.5 percent from three-point range. The Lady Bears also converted 72.3 percent of their free throws in those 16 games. In contrast, MSU was outscored by an average of 14.3 points per game in starting the season with just two wins in its first 13 games. The Lady Bears shot 34.8 percent from the field, 30.7 percent from beyond the arc and just 66.5 percent from the foul line. MSU committed an average of 3.1 fewer turnovers, recorded 2.7 more assists and 1.6 more steals per game over its last 16 contests compared to the first half of the season.


Free and Easy

After converting just 64.9 percent of their free throw attempts in the season’s first six contests, the Lady Bears have heated up from the charity stripe over their last 10 outings. MSU has knocked down 167-of-234 (.714) free throws, outscoring the opposition by 58 points at the foul line over the 10-game stretch.

    Missouri State’s .693 team free throw percentage ranks fourth in The Valley, but both its 239 made free throws and 345 attempts lead the circuit. Casey Garrison has been the most proficient Valley player in getting to the line, making a league-leading 98 trips to the stripe and converting 81 of those, also tops in the conference.


Bombs Away

The Lady Bears have connected from three-point range a minimum of three times in 11 of their 16 games this season and have hit at least one triple in 34 consecutive contests dating back to a 72-42 loss at Drake on Jan. 4, 2008. Prior to their 0-of-10 showing in that game, the Lady Bears had a 36-game streak of at least one three going. Dating back to the 2001-02 season, MSU has hit at least one trifecta in 192 of 194 games, highlighted by a 129-game stretch where they connected at least once from long distance in each outing.


Fab Frosh

For the 15th time in 16 games this season, a freshman led the Lady Bears in scoring in MSU’s 77-53 win over Indiana State on Saturday. Casey Garrison led the way with her second career double-double, totaling 18 points and 11 rebounds in the Lady Bears’ first Valley win of the season.       Four of the Lady Bears’ top six scorers are freshmen and, so far this season, six Missouri State rookies have accounted for just under two-thirds of MSU’s offense overall and 72.9 percent of the Lady Bears’ offense in their eight home dates. Garrison continues to pace the Missouri State offense, scoring at an 18.4 ppg. clip in JQH Arena, while Lacey Boshe is nearly scoring in double figures at home with a 9.8 ppg. average. Garrison and Jasmine Malone have combined to knock down 61-of-74 (.824) free throw attempts at home.                                          

    Two Missouri State freshmen found their way into the Lady Bears’ starting lineup to open the season Nov. 14 at SEMO, marking the third straight year MSU has started a pair of freshmen in its season opener. Garrison and Malone each drew starting assignments versus SEMO, as six Lady Bear freshmen in all made their Missouri State debuts against the Redhawks. Morgan Harrington became the seventh MSU freshman to see court time when she made her first collegiate appearance at Tulsa (Nov. 19). Harrington has seen her playing time steadily increase after missing the season opener at SEMO while recovering from a high ankle sprain.

    Roberson and Boshe cracked the MSU starting lineup Nov. 23 versus Arkansas State, and combined with Garrison, Malone and fellow freshman Regan Soldner to total 53 of the Lady Bears’ 61 points.


“Q” Rating

After compiling a 325-108 record in Hammons Student Center over the last 32 seasons, the Lady Bears dedicated their new $67 million home facility, JQH Arena, Nov. 23, with a 61-52 win over 
Arkansas State.                                     

    The “Q” is the fourth regular home of Missouri State women’s basketball in the 40-year history of the program. The Lady Bears utilized both McDonald Arena and the Greenwood Laboratory School gym from 1969 until Hammons Student Center opened in 1976. MSU continued to play some of its home games at McDonald through the 1979-80 season.

    The Lady Bears dropped their first game at Hammons to Iowa State by an 81-62 score on Dec. 11, 1976.

    Missouri State will be looking to add to its streak of 18 consecutive seasons ranked in the top 20 nationally in average attendance, which includes the 1992-93 campaign when the Lady Bears led all of Division I in that category. Last year, MSU averaged 5,158 fans per home game, good for 20th in the nation.

    The Lady Bears’ new home was made possible by a $30 million gift from MSU alumnus John Q. Hammons and will feature seating for more than 11,000 fans, 24 suites, the PRIME Overtime Club and the Missouri State University Hall of Fame and Legacy of Competition.


Garrison Honored

Freshman Casey Garrison was named the Missouri Valley Conference’s Newcomer of the Week for the third time in 2008-09 on Dec. 22. The 5-11 guard led Missouri State to a pair of wins and its top two offensive performances of the 2008-09 season in the Caribbean Classic in Cancun, Mexico, Dec. 19-20.

    Garrison posted averages of 17.0 ppg., 4.5 rpg., 4.5 apg. and 1.5 spg. to help the Lady Bears close out the non-conference portion of the schedule on a three-game win streak. She led all scorers with 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field in a 77-68 win over Chattanooga (Dec. 20). The Bolivar, Mo., product would also finish with five rebounds, four assists and three steals.

    On Dec. 19, Garrison was one of five Lady Bears to finish in double figures with a 10-point, 5-assist, 4-rebound performance in an 82-63 victory over Stephen F. Austin.

    Garrison was previously honored by the league office on Nov. 24 and again on Dec. 8 following her 33-point performance in MSU’s near-upset of Western Kentucky (Dec. 7) that represented the second-highest point total in school history for a Lady Bear freshman.


On this Date...

January 19, 2007   Missouri State 72, UNI 70 Breton Wyett turned in a career-best 26-point night to lead Missouri State to a 72-70 Missouri Valley Conference win over UNI at Hammons Student Center. Wyett, who poured home 18 points in the second half, finished the game 12-of-15 from the field to lead five Lady Bears in double figures, as the Missouri State bench outscored the UNI reserves by a 47-6 margin. Tahnee Balerio scored all 12 of her points in the second period, while Melissa Busby recorded four steals, grabbed a game-high seven rebounds and connected on 3-of-5 three-point attempts to tally 11 points.


Buzz Bounces Back

One positive that came from MSU’s loss at Tulsa (Nov. 19) was the successful return of junior guard Melissa Busby from a torn ACL that had sidelined her since Feb. 14. Busby went 4-of-15 from the floor to lead the Lady Bears with 13 points and recorded a game-high four steals in 21 minutes of court time.

    In that game, the Edmond, Okla., native moved into sole possession of the No. 10 spot on MSU’s all-time three-point field goals made list. She has dialed it up successfully from long distance 84 times in 58 career games entering Monday’s action. Busby also moved onto the Lady Bears’ career Top 10 chart for three-point attempts against UNI (Jan. 2) when she went 0-for-2 from behind the arc. She enters Monday’s game with 252 tries from beyond the arc, which is 25 attempts shy of K.C. Cowgill’s career total in the No. 9 spot on the list.


Fall Harvest

The Lady Bears locked up four commitments for the 2009-10 season during the NCAA’s early signing period, which ended November 19. Whitney Edie (Exeter, Mo.), Kelsey Smith (Coppell, Texas), Christiana Shorter (Tulsa, Okla.) and Alyson Stock (Nixa, Mo.) have signed National Letters of Intent to join the Missouri State women’s basketball program for the Fall 2009 semester.

    Edie became the fourth and final member of the Lady Bears’ fall signing class Nov. 17. The 6-1 forward has already totaled more than 1,900 points and 1,000 rebounds for her high school career at Exeter High. Last year she averaged over 26 points and 12 boards per outing in helping Exeter to its first-ever district title in girl’s basketball. Edie has failed to reach double digits in scoring in just one of 81 games as a prep.

    Shorter helped lead Booker T. Washington High School to a 23-4 overall record and the Oklahoma Class 5A state title in 2007-08, averaging 10 points and five rebounds per contest. At 6-2, Shorter brings the versatility to play the post or step out to a wing spot where she can exploit her athleticism and ability to run the floor. She chose the Lady Bears over the likes of Wichita State, Oklahoma State, Tulsa and New Mexico State.

    Smith was a first-team All-District 6-5A selection last season after averaging 16.7 points, seven boards and four assists in helping Coppell High go 20-16. A versatile athlete with the strong passing and shooting abilities, Smith can play on the block as well as the perimeter, where she has the ability to stretch defenses with her shooting range.

    Stock averaged just under 10 points and four boards last season in her first year playing at Nixa High. The 6-3 post helped the Lady Eagles to a 19-8 record last year. Stock originally committed to the Lady Bears during her sophomore year at Salisbury (Mo.) High School, where she was an MBCA Class 2 All-State selection in 2006-07.


Bears Live and Lady Bears Gameday Guide

Throughout the 2008-09 season, Lady Bear basketball will be shown on Missouri State’s on-line video channel, Bears Live -- a new, premium broadband video destination for exclusive live and on-demand Missouri State streaming video and audio content. Fans wanting to watch Bears and Lady Bears basketball through the Bears Live feature can subscribe at www.missouristatebears.com.

    Missouri State fans who subscribe to the Bears Live video streaming service will be able to watch 22 men’s and 20 women’s basketball games live on their computer in 2008-09. All home games will be streamed with the exception of regionally and nationally televised games. 

    Links to live game stats (when available) and KTXR’s free, on-line broadcast of every Missouri State women’s basketball game can be found on the Lady Bears’ Gameday page located on the MSU Athletics Web site.


Missouri State Peaks in The Valley

The Lady Bears are 205-84 all-time against Valley opponents with a 120-25 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.



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