Lady Bears set to open 2007-08 season at #22 Texas
The Missouri State Lady Bears will open the 2007-08 season with a 2 p.m. road tilt at Texas, Sunday, Nov. 11. The contest will be the Lady Bears' first under new head coach Nyla Milleson, who takes the reins of the Missouri State program after going 185-36 in seven seasons at Drury University. The Longhorns will also feature a new coach, as Gail Goestenkors takes over for Hall of Famer Jody Conradt, who retired in March after 31 years as Texas head coach.
The Lady Bears return four starters, including All-Missouri Valley Conference guard Tahnee Balerio, who averaged a league-best 18.5 ppg. in 2006-07. Fellow senior Tiff Terwelp is also back after pulling down 8.6 rebounds per contest last season, good for second in the Valley. Junior Breton Wyett and sophomores Melissa Busby, Ashley Lord and Roxy Stiles each spent time in MSU’s starting lineup last year and return again in 2007-08. The addition of a deep and talented recruiting class, as well as junior transfer Maggie Dwyer, rounds out the Lady Bear roster.
Last Time Out: For the second game in a row, the the Lady Bears got key performances from the tandem of junior Maggie Dwyer and freshman Jacque Griggs to hold off a stiff challenge from an exhibition opponent, as MSU defeated Lambuth, 86-75, to close out the preseason 2-0. Behind Dwyer’s second straight 19-point night and Griggs’ 15-point, eight-rebound effort, Missouri State overcame the upset bid from the defending NAIA Division I national champion Lady Eagles. Dwyer scored 11 second-half points, while Griggs was a perfect 4-of-4 from the field in the opening half to help MSU build a lead it would never relinquish. Dwyer came up big for the Lady Bears in the clutch, scoring seven straight points for MSU after Lambuth had trimmed the lead to eight points with just over eight minutes to play, then converting a layup with just over four minutes left after the Lady Eagles had once again pulled to within six points. The Lady Bears grabbed 21 offensive rebounds in the contest and finished with a 50-44 total rebounding advantage. Dwyer pulled down 10 boards, to go along with four assists and two blocked shots to lead MSU.
The Coaches: Nyla Milleson (Kansas State, ’85) is in her first season as the head coach at Missouri State. The Goodland, Kan., native led Drury University to a 185-36 mark 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.
Gail Goestenkors (Saginaw Valley State, ’85) is in her first season as head coach at Texas after amassing a 396-99 record in 15 seasons at Duke. The fourth winningest college women’s basketball coach all-time, Goestenkors led the Blue Devils to 13 NCAA Tournament appearances, eight ACC regular season titles, five ACC Tournament championships and four Final Fours. In the process, the Waterford, Mich., native earned seven ACC Coach of the Year honors and 12 national coach of the year awards over the past eight seasons.
Series Record: The Lady Bears and Longhorns have met on two previous occasions, with Texas emerging victorious in each. Missouri State opened its historic 1991-92 campaign against the 12th-ranked Horns in Austin, falling by a 76-64 score after UT outscored the Lady Bears 10-0 in the game’s final two minutes to seal the win. The two schools nearly met again in the 1992 NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal, but fourth-seeded Texas was upset by UCLA in the second round, 82-81. The Lady Bears routed the Bruins in Boulder, Colo., the following week, then dispatched Ole Miss in the Elite Eight to advance to their first Final Four in Los Angeles. The Lady Bears and Longhorns did meet up in the opening round of the 1996 NCAA Tournament in Lawrence, Kan. Texas’s Danielle Viglione connected on 7-of-8 three-point attempts and scored a game-high 25 points, as UT used an 18-0 first-half scoring run and a 16-0 second-half burst to earn a 73-55 victory.
Scouting Texas: The Longhorns return four starters and 10 letterwinners from last year’s 18-14 team that finished seventh in the Big 12. Leading scorer and rebounder Tiffany Jackson was the fifth overall pick in the 2007 WNBA Draft after averaging 16.8 ppg. and 9.0 rpg. last year. But Texas gets nearly 70% of its scoring and rebounding back, and the Horns ranked as one of the best defensive teams in the Big 12 last year. Senior Earnesia Bailey (7.5 ppg./5.3 rpg.) was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team and is the only returnee to start all 32 games in 2006-07. Junior Earnesia Williams (9.5 ppg./4.3 rpg.), sophomore Carla Cortijo (7.4 ppg./4.9 apg.) and sophomore Brittainey Raven (7.9 ppg./2.9 rpg.) form an experienced nucleus, while juniors Aubrey Cook (1.9 ppg./1.5 rpg.) and Ashley Lindsey (4.2 ppg./2.2 rpg.) provide experienced depth inside. UT’s top returning scorer and three-point threat, junior Erika Arriaran (10.5 ppg./2.6 rpg.) has been sidelined since January with a knee injury and is not expected to play Sunday. Texas picked up a pair of easy exhibition victories, routing Trinity, 101-50 (Nov. 1), then besting the Houston Jaguars, 94-51 (Nov. 6). UT held the opposition to just .287 (31-of-108) shooting from the field while forcing 60 turnovers in the two games. Raven averaged a team-high 18.0 points, while Cortijo added 17.0 points and 8.5 assists in the two contests to lead the club. Freshman Kathleen Nash led the way in the rebounding department, pulling down 10.0 boards per outing, as the Horns averaged 61.0 rebounds per game and posted an astounding +28.5 rebounding margin.
MSU vs. Ranked Opponents: The Lady Bears are 19-34 all-time versus ranked opponents and will be looking to snap an eight-game losing streak against top 25 teams. Missouri State’s last win over a ranked foe came against Gail Goestenkors’ fifth-ranked Duke Blue Devils in the 2001 NCAA West Regional semifinal (3/24/01). Sunday’s matchup will be the Lady Bears’ first season opener versus a ranked opponent since the 2000-01 season when they defeated #10 LSU, 85-75.
For Openers: The Lady Bears are 20-18 all-time in season openers, but have dropped their last three contests on opening night. Last year, MSU lost to Iowa, 79-70, in its first game of the 2006-07 season en route to an 0-3 start and 7-21 campaign.
On this Date in Lady Bears History: November 11, 2006 Iowa 79, Missouri State 70 Junior guard Tahnee Balerio scored a then-career-high 23 points and handed out nine assists, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Hawkeye’s hot shooting from the foul line in the second half. Kristi Smith went 11-of-12 from the charity stripe and finished with 20 points to lead Iowa. The loss spoiled a strong debut performance by freshman Melissa Busby, who buried five first-half three-pointers for the Lady Bears.