Lady Bears picked seventh in conference preseason poll
The Missouri State men’s basketball squad was voted fourth while the MSU women’s team wound up in a seventh-place tie in the two teams’ respective Missouri Valley Conference preseason polls, announced Monday at MVC Basketball Media Day in St. Louis. Senior guard Blake Ahearn was selected to the MVC Preseason All-Conference Team by a vote of league coaches, media and sports information directors, adding yet another honor to his already impressive Missouri State resume.
The Missouri State men return four starters and seven of their top nine scorers from last year’s 22-9 squad that finished tied for second in the Valley and advanced to the NIT Quarterfinals. Barry Hinson’s Bears received 289 points to finish fourth in the preseason poll for a second straight year behind league favorites Creighton, Southern Illinois and Wichita State. Creighton received 386 total points and 29 first-place tallies in the poll, while SIU totaled 354 points and nine first-place votes to finish second. Wichita State received a pair of first-place votes and 325 total points to warrant a third-place pick. After Missouri State in fourth, the men’s ranking included UNI in fifth with 223, Evansville sixth with 163, Drake seventh with 150, Bradley eighth with 136, Illinois State ninth with 125 and Indiana State 10th with 48.
Ahearn, a three-year veteran from St. Louis, averaged 16.2 points and led all Division I players in free-throw percentage for a third straight year in 2005-06. The Bears’ only double-digit scorer, Ahearn led the conference in scoring until late in the campaign and earned all-district recognition from the U.S. Basketball Writers. He is joined on the all-MVC preaseaon squad by Creighton’s Anthony Tolliver and Nate Funk, UNI’s Grant Stout and SIU’s Tony Young and Jamaal Tatum.
Katie Abrahamson-Henderson’s Lady Bears tied with SIU for seventh in the women’s preseason poll, with each receiving 176 total points. The Lady Bears will rely on a host of new faces as they return just one starter and three players who saw significant playing time in 2005-06. Junior forward Tiff Terwelp returns as the most experienced Lady Bear, starting 53 tames over her first two seasons at Missouri State. Junior point guard Tahnee Balerio is also back after averaging 8.2 points last year and sparking Missoui State’s postseason run to the State Farm MVC Tournament title and 13th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.
Drake received 28 first-place votes and totaled 373 points to lead the women’s preseason poll. The Bulldogs feature eight returning players, including seven of whom played in 20 or more games in 2005-06. The Bulldogs also have 78 percent of their scoring and 82 percent of their rebounding returning from last year’s squad. Wichita State finished second, garnering 10 first-place votes and a total of 345 points. Rounding out the women’s preseason poll were UNI third with 274, Evansville fourth with 242, Illinois State fifth with 237, Indiana State sixth with 227, Missouri State and SIU tied for seventh, Creighton ninth with 84 and Bradley 10th with 66.
The Missouri State men play their first exhibition game Wednesday (Nov. 1) in Hammons Student Center, hosting Truman State, while the Lady Bears open Thursday (Nov. 2) against Arkansas Tech.