After seeing their four-game Missouri Valley Conference win streak come to an end Thursday at Creighton, the Missouri State Lady Bears will look to get back into the win column Saturday afternoon with a 2:05 p.m. game against the Drake Bulldogs in Des Moines. MSU will also be seeking its first road win vs. DU since February 2005 and just its second win in the series over the last five seasons.
MSU fell behind early against CU and never fully recovered in a 68-56 setback-its second in three MVC road games this season. The Bluejays torched the nets over the game's first 20 minutes with seven three-pointers to build a 21-point halftime lead. The Lady Bears never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way, despite 18 second-half points from Casey Garrison.
Drake enters Saturday's game having dropped its last four Valley contests after a 3-1 start to the conference season. Like the Lady Bears, the Bulldogs also found themselves in a deep hole early in their Thursday night game against Wichita State. DU battled back in the second half, but ultimately dropped a 66-57 decision to the Shockers to fall to 9-10 on the season.
The lone MVC school with a winning record against the Lady Bears (33-32), Drake has won eight of the last 10 meetings and holds a 19-10 advantage over Missouri State in Des Moines.
► The Lady Bears came in at No. 33 in this week's NCAA RPI ratings, making them the top-rated Valley team in the report; Creighton (75), Illinois State (80) and UNI (82) were also listed among the top 100 teams
► Missouri State has outscored the opposition by an average of 20.4 points while limiting them to .283 shooting over the course of its current eight-game home win streak dating back to Dec. 3
► The Lady Bears are 7-0 this season when winning the turnover battle and 15-1 when holding the opposition below 70 points, with their lone loss in such games coming Thursday vs. Creighton
► Missouri State is 4-0 this season following a loss; the Lady Bears have averaged 71.0 points while allowing just 55.8 to the opposition
► Naismith Trophy candidate Casey Garrison moved past Lisa Davies into ninth place on the Lady Bears' career scoring chart with her 24-point performance at Creighton; she needs five more points to catch Kelly Mago (1,482) in the No. 8 spot on the list
► Garrison has knocked down 87-of-95 (.916) free throws on the season to lead the MVC and rank fifth in all of Division I; she hit a school-record 37 straight attempts from Dec. 5 through Jan. 21 and has five different streaks of at least nine straight makes from the foul line this season
► Garrison has averaged 4.2 assists over her last nine outings dating back to Dec. 21
► Missouri State leads the Valley in total rebounding (45.7 rpg), field goal percentage defense (.324), three-point field goal percentage defense (.270), defensive rebounding (30.8 rpg), offensive rebounding (14.9 rpg) and blocked shots (6.6)
► In conference play, MSU is the top scoring (70.9 ppg) club in the league; the Lady Bears also pace the circuit in free throw percentage (.809) in MVC play
► The Lady Bear defense is among the nation's leaders in field goal percentage defense (3rd), blocks per game (5th) and three-point field goal percentage defense (14th)
► Missouri State has kept eight opponents under .300 from the field this season; prior to the start of this year, the Lady Bears had held just four of their previous 93 foes below the 30 percent mark during Milleson's tenure
► Tia Mays leads the MVC in blocked shots (3.7 bpg), moving up to third on the MSU single-season top 10 blocks list with three rejections Jan. 6 at UNI; she needs just two more blocks to equal Sharon Zeilmann's school record of 75, set in both the 1984-85 and 1986-87 seasons
► Jaleshia Roberson moved into sole possession of fifth place on MSU's all-time three-point field goals list with four treys vs. Illinois State on Jan. 11; she needs 67 threes to catch Jackie Stiles (221) in the No. 4 spot and 117 to reach Kari Koch's school record of 271 career triples
► Roberson also climbed in the school's career top 30 scoring list last week, passing Mary Phyl Dwight and Tonya Baucom to move up to 29th with 843 points
► Christiana Shorter earned her first career MVC Player of the Week honor on Monday, adding to an already-impressive haul of four Valley Newcomer of the Week awards in 2009-10; Shorter leads the MVC in offensive rebounding and ranks third in total rebounding; she ranks among the Valley's top 10 in a total of five individual statistical categories
Scouting the Lady Bears
With 10 letterwinners and four starters back from last year's 22-11 team that finished tied for third in the Missouri Valley Conference to secure the program's first postseason bid in four years, the Lady Bears enter the 2010-11 season as the MVC's preseason favorite. Leading the way for Nyla Milleson's fourth MSU team will be returning All-MVC performers Casey Garrison and Jaleshia Roberson, who were named to the league's preseason all-conference team. The junior duo formed arguably the deadliest one-two punch in the MVC-particularly during conference play-in 2009-10. In MSU's 18 Valley games, they combined for 36.1 points per outing, with Garrison's 20.4 ppg, average pacing all scorers by more than three points per game. They entered the 2010-11 season as two of the conference's top three returning scorers. The reigning Jackie Stiles MVC Player of the Year, Garrison spearheaded MSU's potent offense last year, finishing as the MVC's top scorer and steals leader. She became the first Lady Bear since Kari Koch in 2004 to receive all-region recognition from the Women's Basketball Coaches Association when she was named a Region 6 finalist for the organization's State Farm All-America Team.
Through the first 20 games of this season, Garrison is once again among the league leaders in a number of statistical categories, including free throw percentage (1st), scoring (2nd), assist-turnover ratio (3rd), three-point field goal percentage (3rd), assists (4th) and steals (9th).
Garrison has received help in the back court from fellow junior Jasmine Malone, who ranks third on the team in scoring (10.8 ppg) and fourth in rebounding (5.7 rpg). Roberson (7.4 ppg) has come on strong as of late with five double-digit scoring efforts in MSU's eight MVC games. The junior guard ranks third in the Valley with an average of 2.4 treys per game in conference play. Freshman Karly Buer, who enters Saturday's game fifth on the team with a 5.5 point per game average, has also been a key cog in the Lady Bear attack. A Concordia, Kan., native, Buer was second on the team in assists (36) after registering three straight games of at least 10 points and four assists (Nov. 20-30).
Also returning is the Valley's 2010 Freshman of the Year, Christiana Shorter. A Tulsa, Okla., native, Shorter finished her rookie campaign on a high note, registering five double-doubles in MSU's final six contests. Shorter enters Saturday's game leading the MVC in rebounding (8.2 rpg) and second in field goal percentage (.524), while her 12.1 ppg average is second on the squad and 12th in the conference. Sophomore Tia Mays (4.8 ppg/7.3 rpg) has also played a critical role for MSU, leading the Lady Bears' defensive resurgence with an MVC-high average of 3.7 blocks per game.
Lady Bear Notables
► Missouri State has its best overall (15-5) and Valley (6-2) start under Nyla Milleson and its top mark through 20 games since the 2003-04 season
► Casey Garrison was named MVC Player of the Week for the third time this year and the seventh time of her career Jan. 17, while Tia Mays earned her first MVC Newcomer of the Week honor
► The Lady Bears' 83 points vs. Lamar represented their highest opening-day offensive output since beating LSU, 85-75 to open the 2000-01 campaign
► After going winless on the road in November for over 26 years, Missouri State has claimed victory in two of its last three true road games over the last two seasons, but is still just 13-21 in the first month of the season since 2002-03
► The Lady Bears' win over SIU (Dec. 31) gave them a school-record seven wins in the month of December; MSU's 7-1 mark in December represents its best in any month since going 8-1 in January of 2005; the Lady Bears have won 16 of their last 18 December games over the last three years
► The Lady Bears set or matched five JQH Arena records Dec. 9 vs. SIU Edwardsville, including fewest points allowed (39), fewest points in a half (17), fewest field goals allowed (13), lowest field goal percentage allowed (.210) and widest margin of victory (+29)
► SIU Edwardsville's 39 points marked the lowest point total for a Lady Bear opponent since Jan. 1, 2004, when MSU held SLU to 33 points; it took the Lady Bears less than two weeks to hold another opponent to the same total, limiting Morgan State to 39 points on Dec. 21
► The Lady Bear defense limited Morgan State (Dec. 21) to just 14-of-72 (.194) shooting, marking the second-lowest single-game field goal percentage on record for a Missouri State opponent; that performance followed a similar effort vs. SIU Edwardsville (.210) on Dec. 9 which matched MSU's Jan. 22, 2004 performance vs. Texas-Pan American for the third-lowest single-game percentage
► Missouri State became the 30th Division I program to reach the 700-win mark with its Dec. 3 win over Eastern Michigan
► Mays's nine blocked shots against Arkansas State (Dec. 5) broke the Missouri State single-game record established by Sharon Zeilmann on two separate occasions; her effort also matched the all-time MVC mark held by UNI's Cassie Hager
► MSU was one of 17 Division I women's basketball programs to post a turnaround of at least +10 games or more last season coming into the week; the Lady Bears' 12-game improvement was tied for the seventh-best in the nation
► MSU was 14th nationally in team scoring, 17th in FT percentage, 22nd in 3-FG percentage, 29th in steals, 37th in FG percentage and 47th in assists per game last year
► Missouri State's 591 free throws made in 2009-10 was more than four Valley teams attempted on the season and represented the fifth-highest team total in MVC history
► Garrison ranked 13th nationally in scoring and was the only NCAA Division I player in the country to rank among the top 35 in individual points, assists and steals per game last year
► MVC Freshman of the Year Christiana Shorter's string of four consecutive double-doubles (March 4-19) was the first such streak for a Lady Bear since Tiff Terwelp strung together four straight doubles from Feb. 24 through March 8, 2008
► Jaleshia Roberson's 91 three-point field goals last season was the second-highest total all-time at MSU and tied for third all-time in the Valley in a single season; Roberson moved past Jenni Lingor (2005) and Kari Koch (2006) by going 5-of-9 vs. Wichita State (March 12), and fell just 14 triples shy of Melody Howard's MSU record, set in 1994
Scouting the Bulldogs
Picked seventh in this year's Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll, Drake enters Saturday's game with eight losses in its last 12 outings after starting the season 5-2. The Bulldogs returned nine letterwinners and three starters from last year's 15-15 squad that finished eighth in the Valley. Head coach Amy Stephens has the conference's leading scorer in the form of senior guard Kristin Turk (20.1 ppg/3.5 apg), who also paces the circuit in steals (3.1 spg). Turk has connected on 40-of-111 (.360) three-point attempts to share the MVC lead in total makes from beyond the arc. She receives help in the backcourt from freshman Angela Christianson (8.5 ppg/4.0 rpg), who enters the weekend as DU's third-leading scorer and top free-throw shooter (.885). Junior Amber Wollschlager (6.4 ppg/2.1 apg) has started all 19 games for the Bulldogs and gives Stephens an additional offensive weapon on the perimeter. In the post, DU relies heavily on 6-3 junior Rachael Hackbarth (12.5 ppg/7.2), who leads the club and ranks eighth in the Valley in rebounding. Last year in Des Moines, Hackbarth burned the Lady Bears for a career-high 28 points in an 88-84 DU victory.
As a team, Drake is second in the MVC in both free throw percentage (.744) and steals (9.7 spg). The Bulldogs rated 35th nationally in team free throw percentage as of Jan. 24.
Nyla Milleson (Kansas State, '85) is in her fourth season as the head coach at Missouri State with a 58-55 mark as the Lady Bears' mentor and an overall record of 243-91 in 11 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 three of those years. Milleson was honored as Heartland Conference Coach of the Year three times, as Drury won six conference titles in all. Milleson is 1-5 all-time vs. Drake, including an 0-3 mark against the Bulldogs in Des Moines.
Amy Stephens (Nebraska, '91) is 127-109 in her eighth season as coach of the Bulldogs and 324-152 overall as a collegiate head coach. Stephens came to Des Moines after a highly successful eight-year stay as head coach at Division II Nebraska-Kearney (1994-2002) and one year as assistant coach at the University of Nebraska (2002-03). Stephens guided Drake to a 16-15 record and a WNIT bid in her first season at the helm (2003-04). In 2006-07, the Bulldogs captured the State Farm MVC Tournament title with four wins in four days on their home floor to earn the conference's automatic NCAA Tournament bid. The following year DU claimed a share of the Valley's regular-season crown to earn a WNIT bid, its fourth postseason appearance in five years under Stephens. Against the Lady Bears, Stephens has a 10-6 record, including a 6-1 mark in Des Moines.
The Bulldogs are the only MVC club to hold a winning record vs. Missouri State, entering the contest with a 33-32 mark against the Lady Bears. DU has been dominant on its home floor, claiming 19 of the previous 29 meetings in Des Moines, including each of the last five in the series.
Last year, DU pulled out an 88-84 victory at the Knapp Center (Jan. 7), as Rachael Hackbarth turned in a career-high 28 points. MSU returned the favor in Springfield, however, coming back from an 18-point deficit to stop a seven-game skid vs. the Bulldogs with an 87-78 win at JQH Arena on Feb. 7.
Missouri State's current eight-game home win streak has been fueled by a relentless defense that has held the opposition to an average of just 50.4 points per game. The Lady Bears have limited their eight opponents to a combined .283 (143-of-505) field goal percentage and outrebounded them by a 391 to 320 margin over the stretch, an average of nearly 9.0 boards per outing.
Led by Tia Mays's 3.7 blocks per game, the Lady Bears ranked fifth nationally (as of Jan. 24) with a team average of 6.6 rejections per outing. Mays has totaled 51 of her 73 blocks on the season in MSU's 12 home games.
Strength In Numbers
The Lady Bears came in at No. 33 in this week's (Jan. 24) NCAA RPI ratings report, just three spots below their Dec. 6 season-high position of 30th. MSU continues to be the top-rated Valley team in the report, but three other league schools also rated among the top teams in the country. Creighton (75), Illinois State (80) and UNI (82) were also listed among the top 100 squads in the report.
Missouri State is also drawing recognition in several mid-major polls, including the CollegeInsider.com Women's Mid-Major Top 25 (Jan. 25), which ranked the Lady Bears No. 8, making them the highest rated Valley squad in the poll, seven spots ahead of Creighton and 15 slots ahead of league-leading UNI.
The Lady Bears' non-conference opponents have posted a solid .607 winning percentage as a group, and four of the 12 schools currently lead their respective conferences.
With its victory over Eastern Michigan (Dec. 3), Missouri State became one of three Division I women's programs to reach a substantial milestone the week of Nov. 29-Dec. 5. The Lady Bears 72-57 win represented the 700th win in program history, making MSU the 30th Division I team to reach the plateau. Duke notched its 700th victory on Nov. 30 with a win over James Madison, and Kansas joined the 700-win club as well the following night with a lopsided win over Maine.
The Lady Bears' previous two milestone victories came on the road; MSU reached the 600-win plateau on Feb. 26, 2004 with a 64-47 win at Illinois State, and joined the 500-victory club on Jan. 8, 2000, when it defeated Drake, 81-69 in Des Moines.
With 15 wins it its first 20 games, Missouri State is off to its best start under fourth-year head coach Nyla Milleson. The Lady Bears' current 15-5 mark is one win better than their record at the same point last year and represents their best start to a season since 2003-04, when they began the season with victories in 20 of their first 21 games en route to a 28-4 campaign. Missouri State has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in each of the five seasons it has started with at least eight wins in its first 10 games since moving to Division I status in 1982.
Another Double-Double for Double-Three
Missouri State's No. 33 Christiana Shorter racked up the 13th double-double of her Lady Bear career with a 21-point, 14-rebound effort vs. Wichita State (Jan. 21). That performance moved the Tulsa native into a tie for fifth place on the MSU all-time double-double list, matching Sharon Zeilmann's career total. She trails only Kelly Mago (17), Tiff Terwelp (21), Roshonda Reed (24) and Jeanette Tendai (35) on the list.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
Casey Garrison's quest for the top spot on Missouri State's all-time chart for consecutive free throws made was fulfilled in the Lady Bears Jan. 16 victory over Indiana State. She went 6-of-6 from the stripe to stretch her string of consecutive makes to 33, surpassing Lisa Davies's 13-year-old school record. Garrison then sank her first four shots vs. Wichita State (Jan. 21) before misfiring on two straight attempts, marking her first misses at the stripe since Dec. 5. Garrison's streak of 37 straight free throws ranks fifth on the Valley's all-time list.
Watching No. 5
Junior guard Casey Garrison has been named to the prestigious 2010-11 Naismith preseason watch list, the Atlanta Tip Off Club announced Nov. 9. Garrison, the unanimous preseason choice to repeat as Valley player of the year, was the lone MVC player chosen for the 50-player list.
The watch list was compiled by the Atlanta Tipoff Club's Board of Selectors, which based its criteria on player performances from the previous year and expectations for the 2010-11 college basketball season. The Naismith Trophy presented by AT&T will be awarded on April 4, 2011 at the Final Four in Indianapolis.
Garrison led the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring (19.9 ppg) and steals (2.7 spg) and ranked second in assists (5.1 apg), spearheading the Lady Bears' turnaround from a 10-20 season in 2008-09 to a 22-11 overall mark and third-place Valley finish last year. The 6-0 guard was the only Division I women's basketball player in the nation to rank among the top 35 individuals in those same three categories this season.
Since 2005, presenting sponsor AT&T has set the standard in allowing fans to participate in determining the trophy winner. Through the power and ease of text messaging fan voting will account for 25 percent of all of the final results - more than any other national college basketball award.
In late February, the Atlanta Tipoff Club's Board of Selectors will compile a mid-season team of the top 30 players in the nation. Then in March, the Naismith Trophy voting academy will vote to narrow the list to the four finalists.
The Naismith Trophy is the most prestigious national award presented annually to college basketball's player of the year.
The Defense Never Rests
Missouri State's defense has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, entering the week with the third-best field goal percentage defense in the country. The Lady Bears held four straight opponents under .300 from the field from Dec. 3 through Dec. 12, a first in the 42-year history of the program. MSU has posted two of the best defensive efforts in school history, including a .194 effort at Morgan State that ranked as the second-lowest field goal percentage ever for a Lady Bear opponent. The Lady Bears lead The Valley in field goal percentage defense, three-point field goal percentage defense and blocked shots, ranking fifth in the nation in the latter category as of Jan. 24.
Through the first 20 games of her Missouri State career, sophomore transfer Tia Mays has already made an imprint in the Lady Bear record book. The 6-1 forward, who ranks sixth nationally in blocks per game, has posted eight of the top 15 single-game block totals in school history and already ranks fifth on the Lady Bear career blocks list.
Mays rejected nine shots in MSU's 58-47 win over Arkansas State (Dec. 5), breaking the school record and matching the all-time Missouri Valley Conference mark for blocks in a single game, held by UNI's Cassie Hager. She eclipsed the MSU single-game record held by Sharon Zeilmann for nearly a quarter of a century. Zeilmann swatted away eight shots on two separate occasions during the 1986-87 season.
Mays has followed up that effort with five games of at least six blocks to climb all the way to No. 3 on the MSU single-season top 10 blocks list. The Des Moines native became the fastest Missouri State player to reach 50 career blocks and needs just two more to equal Zeilmann's Lady Bear single-season record. Her current average of 3.7 bpg would rank third all-time on the Valley's single-season list. If she concludes the season atop the MVC's leader board, Mays would become just the third Lady Bear to lead the conference in blocks, joining Zeilmann (1985 and 1987) and Breton Wyett (2007) in that exclusive club. Mays has also been dominant on the glass for MSU, recording 17 straight games of five boards or more.
Climbing the Charts
Junior guard Casey Garrison took her place on a pair of Missouri State career top 10 lists the week of Jan. 3-9. The Bolivar, Mo., product eclipsed Cindy Henderson's career scoring total with her 13-point effort at Bradley (Jan. 8) to move into the top 10 for career scoring, just two days after cracking the school's top 10 steals list.
Already No. 2 all-time at MSU in career scoring average (17.7 ppg), Garrison needs five points to move up to eighth on the scoring list (Kelly Mago with 1,482 points), but an astounding 1,916 points to catch all-time NCAA scoring leader Jackie Stiles in the top spot on the chart with 3,393 career points. Garrison has a much shorter distance to climb to reach the top of the steals list, needing just 153 more to equal Kari Koch's school-record career total of 340.
With 22 more assists and 122 additional rebounds, Garrison would break into the career top 10 charts in those categories as well, making her just the second Lady Bear ever to post top 10 career totals in points, rebounds, assists and steals. Jenni Lingor is currently the only player in the 42-year history of the varsity program at MSU to accomplish the feat, ranking fourth in points, sixth in assists, seventh in rebounds and eighth in steals entering Thursday's contest. With 17 points vs. Illinois State (Jan. 11), Garrison joined Lingor as the only Lady Bears to total 1,400 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists.
Easy As 1-2-3
As a team, the Lady Bears lead the MVC in field goal percentage defense (.324), three-point field goal percentage defense (.270), blocked shots (6.6 bpg), total rebounding (45.7 rpg), offensive rebounding (14.9 rpg) and defensive rebounding (30.8 rpg), and rank first, second or third in 11 different team statistical categories.
After being outscored in each of the first three games of the season, Missouri State's bench has outscored the last 17 Lady Bear opponents by a combined 103 points (300 to 197). MSU reserves enjoyed a strong all-around performance in the Lady Bears' win over LA Tech (Nov. 27), out-scoring the Lady Techster reserves, 23-7 while also outrebounding them 22-7. MSU's contest against ORU (Nov. 30) produced even greater returns, as MSU finished with a 32-5 advantage in bench scoring vs. the Golden Eagles.
Missouri State All-Time
Missouri State is in its 42nd season of women's collegiate basketball and has an all-time record of 711-491 (.592). MSU began formal competition in 1969 and, with its 22-11 mark last year, secured its 27th winning season. The Lady Bears have made 13 NCAA Tournament appearances, highlighted by Final Four trips in 1992 and 2001 to go along with a Sweet 16 appearance in 1993.
The Lady Bears are in their 29th NCAA Division I season and 19th MVC year. MSU was in AIAW competition on the state, regional and national levels through the 1981-82 season, moved to Division I and Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference play in 1982-83 and started MVC competition in 1992-93 when the Gateway merged with The Valley.
MSU Peaks in The Valley
The Lady Bears are 228-100 all-time in MVC play with a 135-30 home record against league foes. Missouri State has won at least a share of 11 regular-season titles and nine conference tournaments since the 1989-90 season. MSU has played in 10 of the 18 Valley tournament championship games and 12 of the 25 title games since the inception of the Gateway Tournament in 1983.