Lady Bears Tabbed Preseason Valley Favorite
ST. LOUIS -- For the first time in six seasons, the Missouri State women's basketball team has been voted the Missouri Valley Conference's preseason favorite by the league's head coaches, media representatives and sports information directors at Tuesday's (Oct. 26) MVC Media Day in St. Louis.
Fourth-year head coach Nyla Milleson will welcome back 10 letterwinners and four starters back from last year's breakthrough 22-11 campaign that saw the Lady Bears finish tied for third in the Valley and return to the postseason for the first time in four seasons. Missouri State garnered 27 of 40 first-place votes and 385 total points to outpace No. 2 UNI in the poll. The Panthers (329 points) grabbed three first-place votes, edging third-place Creighton - which picked up seven first-place nods - by just one point.
Missouri State's selection represents the ninth time in the last two decades the Lady Bears have been the preseason choice to win the conference's regular-season title, and its first since the 2004-05 campaign. The Lady Bears have captured the regular-season crown on seven of the previous eight occasions they have been picked to win the MVC race.
The duo of Garrison and Roberson 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 enter 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 63 games as a Lady Bear, Garrison's career scoring average of 18.0 ppg, is the second-highest mark in school history behind Stiles's 26.1 career average.
As a sophomore, Roberson was a second-team All-MVC pick and MSU's second-leading scorer (14.2 ppg.). The Kansas City native led the Valley in three-point field goals, finishing with 91 triples in all to rank second all-time at MSU in single-season.
Joining Garrison and Roberson on the preseason All-Valley squad were UNI's Jacqui Kalin and Lizzie Boeck and Creighton's Sam Schuett.
Three-time defending league champion Illinois State (258) finished fourth in the polling, while Wichita State (226) came home fifth. Bradley (204) registered a sixth-place finish, while Drake (180), Indiana State (150), Southern Illinois (83) and Evansville (57) rounded out the field.
The Lady Bears will kick off the 2010-11 season Monday (Nov. 1) with a 7:05 p.m. exhibition contest against Rogers State at JQH Arena. After another exhibition (Nov. 7) versus Quincy, MSU will begin its 42nd season of competition with a Nov. 12 home contest against Lamar in the opening round of the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament.