Missouri State Lady Bears (17-8, 9-5 MVC)
Southern Illinois Salukis (4-21, 3-12 MVC) Date: Friday, February 26, 2010Time: 7:05 p.m.Site: JQH Arena (11,000)Location: Springfield, Mo.Radio: KTXR 101.3 FM (Rob Evans, Lynne Miller)TV: NoneLive Audio: RadioSpringfield.com Live Stats and Video: MissouriStateBears.com
Entering the final home weekend of the 2009-10 season, the Missouri State Lady Bears still have some work to do toward securing an opening-round bye at the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Friday, the Southern Illinois Salukis will be looking to avenge a one-point loss to the Lady Bears earlier this season when they visit JQH Arena for a 7:05 p.m., contest.
SIU has lost six straight games and is winless in 11 road contests this season. The Lady Bears, who enter the weekend tied for fourth place in the Valley standings at 9-5, will also be attempting to stop a recent losing streak after suffering road defeats to Illinois State and Wichita State in their last two outings. The top six MVC regular-season finishers automatically advance to the quarterfinal round of the league's postseason tourney, and a Lady Bear win coupled with a loss by either Drake or Wichita State would ensure MSU of at least the No. 6 seed.
► The Lady Bears' 13-of-13 showing at the free throw line last Saturday at Wichita State represented their second-best single-game effort on record; MSU's team free throw percentage of .754 ranked 17th in the nation coming into the week and would be the fifth-highest mark in school history if the season ended today
► Casey Garrison is the lone NCAA Division I player to rank among the top 40 in individual scoring (15th), assists (19th) and steals (34th) through games of Feb. 21; Garrison enters Friday's game just 44 points shy of reaching the 1,000-point mark for her MSU career
►Jaleshia Roberson's 71 three-point field goals on the season ranks sixth all-time at MSU; the sophomore guard needs three more treys to move into fifth place on the list
► Lacey Boshe has converted her last 21 free throw attempts dating back to the Lady Bears' win over Creighton on Jan. 9, and is shooting .947 (36-of-38) from the line in conference play
Missouri State leads the series with Southern Illinois by a 37-25 margin, and holds a 21-11 edge vs. the Salukis in Springfield. MSU has gotten the best of SIU in recent years, claiming wins in 23 of the last 26 contests in the series.
Christiana Shorter's putback with 6.2 seconds left gave the Lady Bears a 69-68 victory over SIU and capped a career night for the MSU freshman in the two clubs' first meeting of the season in Carbondale (Jan. 28). Shorter finished with a double-double consisting of a career-best 21 points and 11 rebounds, as the Lady Bears stopped a two-game losing streak.
Nyla Milleson (Kansas State, '85) is in her third season at Missouri State with a 38-47 mark as the Lady Bears' mentor and an overall record of 223-83 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. 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.
Missy Tiber (West Liberty State, '94) is 4-21 in her first year as head coach of Southern Illinois and 171-91 overall in nine years as a collegiate head coach. Tiber guided Division II Tusculum College to an 86-34 record and two NCAA D-II Tournament appearances in four years at the helm. She aslo spent four years as head coach at Belmont Abbey College, where she led the Crusaders to an 81-36 mark.
Scouting the Lady Bears
Picked to finish seventh in the MVC's preseason poll, Missouri State has gotten balanced contributions across the board, as six players enter the week averaging 7.7 points or more. Sophomore Casey Garrison leads the conference in scoring (19.2 ppg), assists (5.5 apg) and steals (2.7 spg), and is the only Division I player to rank among the top 40 nationally in those three categories. Garrison also rates among the circuit's leaders in offensive rebounding (2nd-3.3 rpg), assist-turnover ratio (2nd-0.9) minutes played (1st-36.0 mpg), field goal percentage (9th-.483), rebounding (6th-7.4 rpg) and free throw percentage (10th-.836). Freshman forward Christiana Shorter has come on strong since the start of MVC play, entering the week as the sixth-leading rebounder (7.3 rpg) among all Valley players in conference play. The Tulsa native is also 10th in the conference in steals per game (1.9 spg) during MVC play and third overall on the team with a 10.6 ppg., scoring average. The Lady Bears' No. 2 scorer, sophomore Jaleshia Roberson (14.3 ppg), has two 30+ point games to her credit so far this season, ranking 17th in the country with an average of 2.8 three-pointers per outing. Her 71 treys on the year rank as the sixth-highest single-season total in school history.
As a team, Missouri State's scoring average (76.3 ppg) was the 14th-best in all of Division I women's basketball, while its free-throw percentage (.754) was 17th and its three-point field goal percentage (.375) ranked 20th nationally through Feb. 21.
Scouting the Salukis
The preseason pick to finish last in the Missouri Valley Conference, Southern Illinois returned just one starter and five letterwinners from last year's 9-19 squad. Despite a 4-21 start to the season, the Salukis came within a whisper of knocking off the Lady Bears in the two clubs' first meeting of the season in Carbondale (Jan. 28) before suffering a hard-luck, 69-68 setback. SIU is led by a pair of seniors who have flourished in first-year head coach Missy Tiber's system. Christine Presswood (15.8 ppg) is the No. 2 scorer and three-point shooter (.433) in the Valley after averaging just 2.9 points per outing a year ago. Transfer Stephany Neptune (10.8 ppg./10.7 ppg.) has been one of the top all-around players in the circuit so far this season, averaging a double-double while leading the league in rebounding and ranking third in both assists (4.5 apg) and steals (2.5 spg) in her first season in a Saluki uniform. Another newcomer, freshman Teri Oliver, has also made significant contributions as a rookie. The 5-9 guard has started all 24 contests in which she has appeared for SIU and enters Friday's game as the club's second-leading scorer (13.3 ppg). Fellow freshman Katerina Garcia is the third-leading assister (4.4 apg) in the MVC during conference play, while junior forward Katrina Swingler (7.6 ppg) gives the Salukis a consistent presence on the interior.
SIU has struggled to put together a consistent offensive attack this season, ranking ninth in the conference in scoring (61.0 ppg.). The Salukis have allowed an average of 70.6 points per game on the defensive end, as SIU opponents have shot .416 from the field.
One of the keys to the Lady Bears' turnaround in 2009-10 has been their ability to come through down the stretch. MSU is shooting .430 from the field and better than 80 percent from the foul line in the final five minutes of all games this season. Casey Garrison been especially efficient down the stretch, shooting .439 from the field and 88 percent from the charity stripe in the last five minutes. The sophomore has been even better over the last two minutes of play, contributing 2.6 points, which equates to a 40-minute average of 52.0 points per contest.
That's More Like It
With their win over Indiana State on Feb. 12, the Lady Bears notched their 17th victory of the season, which is their top total in three years under Nyla Milleson. Missouri State's 17 wins is the second-highest total in the MVC entering the week, and coupled with its 9-5 league mark, represents quite a turnaround from a year ago, when the Lady Bears managed just four wins in their first 14 Valley games and just eight victories overall through the same point in the conference season.
So Far, So Good
MSU's 17-8 start is its best since the 2004-05 season, when it won 19 of its first 25 games en route to a 25-8 finish and the postseason WNIT championship. Since the 1990-91 season, the Lady Bears have advanced to the postseason in each of the 11 seasons they have posted at least 17 wins in their first 25 games.
Take a Number
In just her 48th career game, sophomore guard Casey Garrison topped the 800-point plateau and moved onto Missouri State's career top 30 scoring list with her 21-point effort vs. Wichita State (Jan. 23). She passed three former MSU standouts to move up to No. 22 on the list with her 25-point performance vs. Drake on Feb. 7. She needs nine points to reach the No. 21 spot, currently held by Gail Beck.
Garrison enters Friday's contest with 956 points in 55 career games, good for an average of 17.4 ppg., the second-highest mark in school history behind Jackie Stiles's 26.1 career scoring mark.
No lead has been safe for Lady Bear opponents so far in 2009-10, as MSU has claimed victories in five games in which they have faced double-digit deficits. On Feb. 7, the Lady Bears overcame an 18-point deficit to Drake to come away with an 87-78 win, marking their biggest come-from-behind victory since at least the 1990-91 season. Previously, MSU overcame deficits of 10 points to Indiana State (Jan. 16), 12 points against Bradley (Dec. 31) 11 points vs. UNI and UTEP to post victories. Entering the season 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.
The Lady Bears will honor their lone senior, Melissa Busby, Sunday when they square off against Evansville. Busby, MSU's No. 8 all-time three-point shooter, is also closing in on the centrury mark for career games played, entering Friday's game at 98. The team will also honor Busby's classmate, three-year letterwinner Roxy Stiles. Due to a chronic hip condition, Stiles was forced to forgo her senior year. The Claflin, Kan., native is currently working toward completing her undergraduate degree at MSU.
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 25 games of the season, the Lady Bears are outscoring the opposition by a 454-333 margin at the foul line and lead the Valley in both free throws made and attempted by wide margins. MSU has attempted at least 20 free throws 18 times and has put up 143 more charity tosses than its opponents, an average of +5.7 per outing so far this season. Additionally, three Lady Bears rank among the MVC's top 11 free throw shooters coming into the weekend. The No. 2 free-throw shooter in MVC play (.947), Lacey Boshe is ninth overall in the circuit with a season mark of .836 from the stripe, while Casey Garrison is a fraction of a percentage point behind in 10th. Jaleshia Roberson is right on their heels, ranking 11th with an .824 percentage from the line. The trio has combined to hit on 166-of-192 (.865) attempts from the line in MVC play, including a streak of 21 straight conversions by Boshe.
In Saturday's loss at Wichita State, the Lady Bears set a Missouri State road record for foul line efficiency by going 13-of-13 from the stripe. That effort marked the sixth perfect game from the line on record at MSU and represented the second-best single-game performance in school history. The Lady Bears' all-time best game from the line came vs. Drake on March 10, 2001, when MSU went 16-of-16 against the Bulldogs.
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 on Jan. 7, Roberson became the first Lady Bear to post multiple 30+ point games in the same season since Tahnee Balerio recorded four such outings 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.
The Lady Bears super sophomores have been two of the top Valley performers this season, particularly during conference play. Through the first 14 games of the MVC slate, they have combined for 35.2 points per outing, with Garrison's 19.6 ppg, average pacing all scorers by more than three points per game. Roberson is scoring at a 15.6 clip, which is good for fourth in the circuit. Furthermore, Garrison leads the conference in four statistical categories overall and ranks among the top five in six categories in MVC play.
Hand It Over
Missouri State is leading the Missouri Valley Conference in team assists, coming into Friday's game with a 14.8 apg, average. Casey Garrison's 5.5 assist per-game average is tops in the circuit, while Jaleshia Roberson ranks 12th 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. Roberson has also posted a career game for assists in 2009-10, handing out nine in the Lady Bears' win at Evansville on Jan. 30.
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 10.4 steals per outing, 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 2.7 takeaways per game to lead the league, while freshman forward Christiana Shorter is 13th in the MVC with a 1.6 spg, average. Jaleshia Roberson is close behind in 15th with 1.5 takeaways per outing.
The Lady Bears notched their seventh road win of the season Feb. 12 at Indiana State, surpassing their total number of victories on the road for the previous three seasons combined. Additionally, its 86-57 win over Evansville on Jan. 30, marked MSU's largest margin of victory on the road under Nyla Milleson and its most-lopsided win away from home since a 96-55 win at Wichita State on Jan. 30, 2005.
The Long and Shorter of It
Since the start of conference play, Christiana Shorter has averaged 12.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, while posting four double-digit rebounding games, as well as three double-doubles. She is 10th among all Valley players in steals per game (1.9) and sixth in rebounding, and her 2.9 offensive boards per game in MVC play is tied with fellow Lady Bear Casey Garrison for the second-highest figure in the circuit. Additionally, Shorter's 28 blocked shots currently ranks as the seventh-best single-season total in MSU history.
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 Stubblefield was the only other Lady Bear to accomplish the feat (Jan. 23, 1998).
Out in Front
Missouri State's 2-0 MVC start was its first since the 2003-04 season. Historically speaking, however, getting out in front of the pack in conference play is nothing new to the Lady Bears. In their 18 seasons in the Valley, the Lady Bears have won their first two games on nine occasions, winning the Valley regular-season title four times and finishing no lower than third in the standings in any of those years. Including MSU's nine seasons in the Gateway Conference, the Lady Bears have advanced to the postseason in nine of the 11 years they have started 2-0 in league play.
Lady Bears Land Hardware
For the third time this season, two Missouri State teammates combined to sweep the Missouri Valley Conference's weekly awards (Feb. 8). Junior Jaleshia Roberson earned her third MVC Player of the Week honor, while freshman Christiana Shorter was named MVC Newcomer of the Week for the second straight week and the fourth time overall in 2009-10.
Shorter averaged 17.0 points and 9.5 rebounds and played prominent roles down the stretch in Lady Bear wins over Creighton and Drake. For the week, she was successful on 12-of-23 (.522) field goal attempts and 83.3 percent of her free throw tries, and also blocked a pair of shots to move up to No. 9 on the Lady Bears single-season blocks (28) list.
Roberson led the Missouri State charge for the period Feb. 1-7, averaging 19.5 points 2.5 assist and 2.0 steals. She was red-hot from three-point range, hitting on 8-of-13 (.615) attempts from beyond the arc, including a 3-of-3 effort in the second Feb. 7, to help MSU overcome an 18-point deficit against Drake. The Kansas City product scored 20 points on just 10 field goal attempts and recorded three assists and two steals in the 87-78 win. That performance followed up a game-high 19-point effort against Creighton in which she was 4-of-5 from three-point range and 5-of-8 from the field overall. In all, Roberson connected on 61.1 percent of her field goal tries and was a perfect 9-of-9 from the free throw line in the two contests.
The two awards continued a recent stream of MVC honors for the Lady Bears, as MSU has earned at least one of the two weekly citations from the Valley in seven of the 13 weeks the conference office has presented individual honors. Shorter earned her previous Newcomer of the Week honors on Dec. 7, Jan. 11 and Feb. 1. Roberson was previously named Valley Player of the Week on Dec. 21 and Jan. 11. 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.
Buzz Bombs Away
Senior guard Melissa Busby enters Friday's game eighth on the school's all-time three-point field goals list with 135. MSU's active leader in games played (97), Busby also has a chance to climb further on the three-point attempts chart, coming into the contest sixth all-time with 402 tries from beyond the arc. The Edmond, Okla., native moved past Tina Robbins for sole possession of the eighth spot on the career three-point field goals list by going 2-of-4 from long range in MSU's win over Evansville (Jan. 30) and needs four more makes to reach Tahnee Balerio and K.C. Cowgill, who are tied for the sixth spot. Busby and passed Sarah Klaassen (395) for the sixth position on the career attempts chart in MSU's loss at Illinois State (Feb. 14).
Additionally, Busby has hit at least one triple in 16 straight games, dating back to MSU's Dec. 19 contest at Oral Roberts.
Missouri State All-Time
Missouri State is in its 41st season of women's collegiate basketball and has an all-time record of 691-483 (.589). 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.
The Lady Bears are in their 28th NCAA Division I season and 18th 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.