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Missouri Valley Notebook

February 5, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Missouri Valley Notebook

by Alan Rubenstein

Creighton Bounces back with a vengeance

A week after suffering its first conference loss of the season, Creighton posted a pair of blowout victories. The Blue Jays handled Indiana State, 74-46, and Drake, 88-68, to up their record to 19-2 and enter the week as the nation’s 13th ranked team. With a win against Northern Iowa Creighton can become the nation’s first twenty win team. The Blue Jays will welcome Fresno State to Omaha February 22nd as one of the key match-ups as part of Bracket Buster Saturday.

Creighton is looking to become only the second Missouri Valley team ever to compete in five consecutive tournaments. With 185 three point field goals on the season, the Blue Jays are looking to become only one of 14 Division I schools to make 200 three pointers in each of the last five seasons. Korver, who presently leads the Valley in free three shooting with a 91 percent average, is likely to finish the season with three of the top five best seasons from the stripe at Creighton.

Southern Illinois kept pace with Creighton this past week with victories over Bradley and Wichita State. The 94-59 pasting of the Shockers on the road was especially impressive. Darren Brooks led five Dawgs in double figures. Kent Williams keeps climbing the Valley scoring charts as he just passed the 1,800 mark to become the 24th Valley player to do so. The Salukis will also be hosting a Bracket Buster game, as they welcome Bruce Weber’s alma mater Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Drake, with a 7-13, 2-7 record, has not had much to brag about this season. Senior Greg Danielson has provided the Bulldog faithful with someone to watch every night. He is leading the Valley in rebounding with a 9.5 per game average. The Bulldogs have also had five different players score 25 points in a game this season. In addition tp Danielson, Luke Mc Donald, Quantel Murphy, Lonnie Randolph and J.J. Sols have all hit the quarter century mark.

Evansville has had an up and down year under first year Head Coach Steve Merfeld. The Purple Aces have been a much more consistent team at home. They have averaged 78 points per game at Robert Stadium and only 64 on the road. With two more career victories, Merfeld will hit the century mark for victories in his career. He has a 98-58 career record. He immigrated to southwestern Indiana from Hampton.

Southwest Missouri State has been the surprise of the Valley through the first half of the season. The Bears trail Southern Illinois and Creighton by only a half game. A big difference in the Bears play has been the outstanding contribution they have received from freshman forwards Kellen Easley and Tamarr Macklin. SMS has bolted out to a 9-1 record since the diaper dandies were elevated to a starting role on December 29th. The Bears were amazingly able to overcome 26.5 percent from the floor and 48 points to post a victory over Indiana State last week. The Bears’ defense held the Sycamores to 44 points. The 48 points scored by SMS was their lowest in victory since an infamous 43-32 win over Wisconsin in the 1999 NCAA tournament en route to a Sweet 16 appearance under Steve Alford.

David Moss, who was Indiana State’s only bright spot in the loss to SMS, was a virtual one man offense as he led the Sycamores with 19 points. The freshman has reached double figures 14 times this season and is only one double figure night away from tying assistant coach Michael Menser’s rookie record.

Bradley’s injuries and defections are really starting to take its toll on the Braves. The Brave starters are averaging 65.7 points and outscoring their opponents by 9.4 points per game in their last three games. Their bench however has really struggled in the same span, averaging only 3.0 PPG and has been outscored by 16.7 PPG. The last six games have seen Bradley get off to fast starts with mixed results. Against Northern Iowa, Drake and Indiana State, the Braves were able to use leads of 20-4 and 19-7 twice to float to victory. With first half leads of 40-26, 24-13 and 10-0 it looked as if they were well on the way to victory. Southern Illinois, Wichita State and Illinois State all staged comebacks that did the Braves in.

If not for Southwest Missouri challenging Southern Illinois and Creighton for Valley Supremacy, the surprise team in the conference this season would be Wichita State. The Shockers are 6-3 in the conference and 11-7 overall. Sophomore guard Randy Burns has already become the school’s eighth all-time three point shooter. Burns who has 35 this season and 92 for his career, needs 10 to reach John Cooper for 7th.

Northern Iowa and Illinois State will also compete in the Bracket Buster as they will travel to Louisiana Tech and Marshall, respectively. This week’s key match up will be Saturday night when Southern Illinois will travel to Springfield to take on Southwest Missouri State. The winner will be in the driver’s seat with Creighton to win the regular season title and the number one seed in the conference tournament.

     

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