Missouri State Lady Bears (19-8, 11-5 MVC)
UNI Panthers (13-14, 9-7 MVC) Date: Thursday, March 4, 2010Time: 7:05 p.m.Site: McLeod Center (6,650)Location: Cedar Falls, IowaRadio: KWTO "The Jock" 98.7 FM (Rob Evans)TV: NoneLive Audio: RadioSpringfield.com Live Stats and Video: UNIPanthers.com
A pivotal two-game road swing to close the Missouri Valley Conference season awaits the Missouri State Lady Bears, beginning with a Thursday (March 4) tilt with the UNI Panthers at the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
With victories over all three teams contending for the No. 2 seed in next week's State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, the Lady Bears control their own destiny coming into the weekend. With a Saturday match-up at Bradley on tap to close the regular season, MSU still has work to do, however. None of the second through eighth seeds are set in stone coming into the final week of play, and the Lady Bears lead the Braves by just one game coming into Thursday's action.
► The Lady Bears enter the final week of the regular season with the potential to finish anywhere from second to fifth place in the Valley standings; a win Thursday would ensure at least a fourth-place finish
► Casey Garrison is the lone NCAA Division I player to rank among the top 30 in individual scoring (14th), assists (26th) and steals (27th) through games of Feb. 28
► With her 27-point performance vs. Evansville Sunday, Garrison became the 20th player in Missouri State history to top the 1,000-point plateau and the second-quickest Valley player ever to reach the mark, doing so in just 57 career games
► MSU ranks 13th in in the nation in both team scoring (76.8) and three-point percentage (.379)
► The Lady Bears' win over Evansville Sunday was their 11th victory at JQH Arena this season, marking their highest home win total since the 2005-06 season, when they went 14-4 at Hammons Student Center; the victory also assured MSU of its first double-digit MVC win total since 2004-05
► Jaleshia Roberson's 75 three-point field goals on the season is tied for fourth all-time at MSU; the sophomore guard needs eight more treys to move into second place on the list, currently shared by Kari Koch and Jenni Lingor
Thursday's game will be the 60th renewal of the rivalry between the Lady Bears and Panthers, with Missouri State holding a commanding 44-15 lead in the series.
The two teams have split their last 10 meetings, including a 90-80 MSU win in Springfield in the two clubs' first match-up of the season on Jan. 2. UNI has taken four of the last five contests played in Cedar Falls, but the Lady Bears still possess a 16-12 overall mark in the series on the Panthers home court.
Nyla Milleson (Kansas State, '85) is in her third season at Missouri State with a 40-47 mark as the Lady Bears' mentor and an overall record of 225-83 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.
Tanya Warren (Creighton, '88) is 27-51 in her third season as both coach of the Panthers and overall as a collegiate head coach. A Des Moines, Iowa, native, Warren led UNI to a 13-18 mark and sixth-place finish in the Valley in her rookie campaign in Cedar Falls in 2007-08, before guiding the Panthers to 11 wins and another sixth-place MVC finish last year. Warren came back to UNI in the spring of 2007 after spending the previous three seasons as associate head coach at her alma mater. She served as an assistant on Tony DiCecco's UNI staff from 1995-2001, then spent three seasons at Missouri before returning to Creighton in 2004.
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 Thursday's game averaging 7.6 points or more. Sophomore Casey Garrison leads the conference in scoring (19.7 ppg) and steals (2.8 spg), ranks second in assists (5.3) and was the only Division I player to rank among the top 30 nationally in those three categories through games of Feb. 28. Garrison also rates among the circuit's leaders in offensive rebounding (3.2 rpg), assist-turnover ratio (1.8) minutes played (35.9 mpg), field goal percentage (.488), rebounding (7.5 rpg) and free throw percentage (.842) entering Thursday's action. Freshman forward Christiana Shorter has come on strong since the start of MVC play, entering the week as the sixth-leading rebounder (7.1 rpg) among all Valley players in conference play. The Tulsa native is also 11th in the conference in steals per game (1.8 spg) during MVC play and third overall on the team with a 10.8 ppg, scoring average. The Lady Bears' No. 2 scorer, sophomore Jaleshia Roberson (14.2 ppg), has two 30+ point games to her credit so far this season, ranking 22nd in the country with an average of 2.8 three-pointers per outing. Her 75 treys on the year are tied for the fourth-highest single-season total in school history.
As a team, Missouri State's scoring average (76.8 ppg) was the 13th-best in all of Division I women's basketball, while its three-point field goal (.379) percentage ranked 13th and its free-throw (.757) was 17th nationally through Feb. 28.
Scouting the Panthers
UNI returned all five starters and 13 letterwinners from last year's 11-19 squad that posted a strong second half to finish sixth in the Valley. A treacherous non-conference slate that included games with the likes of Louisville, Missouri, Iowa, Iowa State and Green Bay made for an up-and-down start to the season for UNI, but the Panthers have responded with a strong run through the MVC to enter Thursday's game at 13-14 overall and 9-7 in league play. Leading UNI's balanced attack is the duo of sophomore guard Jacqui Kalin (15.3 ppg/3.0 apg) and hunior post Lizzie Boeck. Kalin is the No. 4 scorer and third-leading free throw shooter (.905) in the MVC, while Boeck is averaging 11.5 points and 6.3 boards per game coming into Thursday's contest. Kalin and senior guard Nicole Clausen (7.5 ppg) have combined for 110 of the team's 174 three-pointers, while sophomore guard K.K. Armstrong (8.7 ppg./2.1 apg.) is the club's second-leading assister. UNI's top rebounder, junior Erin Brocka (6.2 ppg/8.1 rpg) ranks among the MVC's top 10 individuals in rebounds, steals and blocks. Senior Kim Wypiszynski has also been a force for the Panthers, averaging 9.2 points and 4.0 boards per outing and shooting .883 from the foul line coming into the week.
UNI comes into the week as the MVC's top free throw-shooting club in conference play, hitting on an astounding 84 percent of its tries from the stripe. The Panthers also lead the league in three-pointers per game in MVC play, connecting from long distance an average of 7.1 times per game.
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 .455 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 .450 from the field and nearly 89 percent from the charity stripe in the last five minutes. The sophomore has been even better over the last two minutes of play, contributing 2.4 points per game, which equates to a 40-minute average of 48.0 points per contest.
That's More Like It
With their win over Evansville on Sunday, the Lady Bears notched their 19th victory of the season, which is their top total in three years under Nyla Milleson. Missouri State's 19 wins is the second-highest total in the MVC entering the week, and coupled with its 11-5 league mark, represents quite a turnaround from a year ago, when the Lady Bears managed just six wins in their first 16 Valley games and just 10 victories overall through the same point in the conference season.
So Far, So Good
MSU's 19-8 start is its best since the 2004-05 season, when it won 20 of its first 27 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
Sophomore guard Casey Garrison put her abilities on full display during Sunday's win over Evansville, pouring home 21 points in the first 11:24 of the second half to spark a 29-10 run that turned a two-point MSU deficit into a 62-45 contest. That stretch included a field goal with just over 14 minutes left on the clock that put her over the 1,000-point mark in just her 57th career game. In doing so, she became the second-fastest to reach the mark in Missouri Valley Conference history, trailing only NCAA Division I scoring leader and fellow Lady Bear Jackie Stiles, who accomplished the feat in her 44th collegiate game.
Garrison's career scoring average of 17.7 ppg, is the second-highest mark in school history behind Stiles's 26.1 career average.
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 honored their lone senior, Melissa Busby, prior to Sunday's game against Evansville. Busby, MSU's No. 8 all-time three-point shooter, will suit up for her 100th game in a Missouri State uniform Thursday, becoming the 38th Lady Bear to top the century mark in games played.
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 27 games of the season, the Lady Bears are outscoring the opposition by a 476-348 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 148 more charity tosses than its opponents, an average of +5.5 per outing so far this season. Additionally, three Lady Bears ranked among the MVC's top 11 free throw shooters coming into the week. Casey Garrison enters Thursday's game ninth overall, shooting 84.2 percent from the stripe, while Jaleshia Roberson is right on her heels, ranking 11th with a season mark of .832. The No. 4 free-throw shooter in MVC play (.907), Lacey Boshe ranks 12th overall in the circuit with an .821 percentage. The trio has combined to hit on 179-of-207 (.865) attempts from the line in MVC play.
In their Feb. 20 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 16 games of the MVC slate, they have combined for 35.7 points per outing, with Garrison's 20.4 ppg, average pacing all scorers by 3.5 points per game. Roberson is scoring at a 15.3 ppg, clip, which is good for fifth in the circuit. Furthermore, Garrison leads the conference in two statistical categories overall and ranks among the top five in seven categories in MVC play.
Hand It Over
Missouri State is leading the Missouri Valley Conference in team assists, coming into today's game with a 15.3 apg, average. Casey Garrison's 5.3 assist per-game average ranks second in the circuit, while Jaleshia Roberson is 10th among all Valley players with a 3.1 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 was averaging 2.81 takeaways per game to lead the league coming into Thursday's game, while Jaleshia Roberson and Christiana Shorter are tied for 13th in the MVC with identical 1.52 spg, averages.
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 12.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, while posting four double-digit rebounding games, as well as three double-doubles. She is tied for 11th in the Valley in steals per game (1.8) and tied for sixth in rebounding coming, and her 2.9 offensive boards per game in MVC play is the second-highest figure in the circuit. Additionally, Shorter's 29 blocked shots is tied for the sixth-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 Thursday's game eighth on the school's all-time three-point field goals list with 135. MSU's active leader in games played (99), Busby also has a chance to climb further on the three-point attempts chart, coming into the contest sixth all-time with 405 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). Busby's streak of hitting at least one triple in 16 straight games came to an end last Friday when she didn't attempt a single three on the night.
Garrison Seeing 20/20
Casey Garrison recorded her fifth straight 20+ point outing in MSU's Jan. 30 win at Evansville. Over the five-game stretch, Garrison averaged 23.8 points and shot 55.7 percent from the field and .893 from the foul line.
With their win over league-leading Creighton (Jan. 9), 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 its Jan. 7 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 their 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.
Missouri State All-Time
Missouri State is in its 41st season of women's collegiate basketball and has an all-time record of 693-483 (.589). MSU began formal competition in 1969 and, with its 18-8 mark this year, has wrapped up 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 Sixteen appearance 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.
MSU Peaks in The Valley
The Lady Bears are 221-97 all-time in MVC play with a 130-30 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 17 Valley tournament championship games and 12 of the 24 title games since the inception of the Gateway Conference Tournament in 1983.