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Missouri Valley Notebook

December 1, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Missouri Valley Conference Notebook

by Neal Heston

Davis returns to Iowa

The homecoming for Dr. Tom Davis at Carver Hawkeye Arena wasn’t so welcoming for the Drake Bulldogs as Iowa cruised to a 74-56 victory.

Drake opened some eyes in the first frame going into the half only trailing 36-32. Iowa more than doubled its first half total though by hitting eight of 12 shots coming out of the locker room. The Bulldogs fell even to 1-1 in the new Tom Davis era.

Davis returned to Iowa City for the first time since 1999 when his Hawkeyes bowed out to Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament. He is the winningest coach in Iowa Hawkeye history and was named AP National Coach of the Year in his first season after leading the Hawkeyes to a school-record 30 victories. In 13 years at the helm from 1986-99, Davis took the Hawkeyes to the postseason nine times, including each of his final five seasons.

Drake is the new home for Tom Davis now and Bulldog fans could not be happier. The Bulldogs haven’t enjoyed a winning season since the 1986-87 campaign when they posted a 17-14 record. If history repeats itself, that might just change in the near future.

Davis is already credited with turning around one basketball program that was in shambles. He took over a Stanford team in 1982 that hadn’t recorded a winning season in ten years and just one in the last 15 years. They went 14-14 in his first season and have had just three losing seasons since 1982.

Turning around the Bulldogs won’t be easy. Davis not only inherits a team that finished 10-20 last season, but the top three scorers won’t be returning either. Junior Lonnie Randolph will be looked at to lead a young team that includes three underclassmen starters. Randolph averaged nine points a game last season, but really turned hot near the end, averaging nearly 16 points in the final seven games.

Drake defeated Simpson 87-72 Friday night to give Davis a win in his coaching debut with the Bulldogs – already reaching a feat few Drake coaches have. Howard Stacey was the last coach to win his first game with Drake 32 years ago. Winning his debut is a minor step that Drake fans hope will be a quick turnaround.

With 543 wins, Davis is 11th on the list for active Division I coaches. His previous stints include seasons at Lafayette from 1971-77, Boston College from 1977-82, Stanford from 1982-86 and Iowa from 1986-99.

Other MVC news…

Indiana State, Penn, DePaul and Michigan State are all in the Final Four – of 1979 that is. The four teams will take part in the 1979 Final Four reunion this weekend in Michigan. Michigan State captured the title that year behind the tournament’s most outstanding player, Magic Johnson. Larry Bird and the Indiana State Sycamores fell one game short of a perfect season. Some facts about the 1979 tournament:

• The field expanded to 40 teams and each team was seeded for the first time.

• The 1979 NCAA championship game was television’s highest-rated final ever.

• Penn made it to the Final Four despite being a ninth seed. Their trip included a win over ninth-ranked North Carolina.

Each team in the MVC flexed its muscles during the first week of the season, and their opponents blinked. Nine of the ten teams in the conference opened their season with a victory. Only Evansville dropped its opener, a 70-54 setback to Illinois-Chicago. The unbeatens will face stiffer challenges next week though as teams like Iowa, Iowa State, Butler, Utah State and Colorado State make their way on several team’s schedules.

A milestone has been reached in Peoria. Bradley tipped off its 100th season successfully on Friday with a victory – just like the good old days. It wasn’t easy, but the Braves rallied from an early 13-0 deficit to defeat Louisiana-Monroe in overtime during the first round of the Las Vegas Tournament. Prior to Friday’s contest, the 91-90 win over top-ranked Cincinnati on Jan. 16, 1960 was recognized as the greatest game in Bradley basketball history.

St. Louis will remain the home for the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament until at least 2007. MVC commissioner Doug Elgin announced the three-year contract extension that will keep tournament play in Savvis Center. The MVC Tournament was first brought to St. Louis in 1991. The Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden is the only conference with a longer run in the same neutral site.

A minor change will be enforced in 2004 tourney play to accommodate a home game for Saint Louis. The Billikens will have a home contest on the same day as the first set of MVC games, so MVC play will begin Friday at noon instead of 6 p.m.

Bradley (2-1)

The Braves opened their season with a first round victory in the Las Vegas Tournament. A 73-65 overtime victory over Louisiana-Monroe continued the MVC’s dominance over the weekend. Senior guard James Gillingham helped rally BU from 13 down with his 29 points, and sophomore forward Marcellus Sommerville forced the game into overtime with a layup. Sommerville tallied 15 points and added 12 rebounds in a winning cause.

Sommerville took charge again on Sunday in a 92-86 victory over Northeastern. He scored 20 points this time to go along with 13 boards. Four additional Braves also totaled double digits in scoring, including Phillip Gilbert with 23 points. Lubbock Christian handed Bradley its first loss of the season on Tuesday, 89-81. Sommerville yet again lit up the scoreboard with 28 points in a losing cause.

Creighton (1-0)

A record crowd showed up as the Bluejays played their first home game in Qwest Center. Creighton dismantled San Diego, 79-44 in front of a crowd of 12,255 on Saturday. Center Brody Deren grabbed 12 rebounds and the Bluejays sank six 3-pointers in the second half to breeze through the season-opener.

Drake (1-1)

Dr. Tom Davis stepped back into the coaching spotlight with an 87-72 victory over Simpson College Friday night. Davis is the first Bulldog coach to win his debut with the team since 1971. In the first meeting between these two teams since 1993, four Bulldog players scored in double figures, including Quantel Murphy with 19 points and Lonnie Randolph with 18 points.

Drake traveled to Iowa City on Tuesday to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes. Davis was not treated well in his homecoming as Iowa pushed around Drake in the second half to cruise to a 74-56 win.

Evansville (0-2)

Illinois-Chicago took advantage of eight newcoming players from Evansville as they handed the Purple Aces a 70-54 season-opening loss. Horizon League Pre-Season Player of the Year Cedrick Banks lit up Evansville all night, scoring 26 points for Illinois-Chicago. Sophomore center Dewayne Lee led the Purple Aces with 14 points. Evansville made the game more interesting in the rematch at Chicago on Tuesday. Illinois-Chicago squeaked by with a 77-73 win.

Evansville will travel to Austin Peay on Dec. 1 with the game starting at 7:05 p.m.

Illinois State (1-0)

Head coach Porter Moser began his coaching career on the right foot with Illinois State as the Redbirds sailed past Florida A&M 87-70 on Sunday. Junior guard Trey Guidry led the way, putting up 24 points for ISU. Marcus Arnold also added 21 points in the winning effort. The Redbirds saw an early 9-0 lead evaporate but regained composure to take a 10-point lead into halftime.

The Redbirds return back home on Dec. 2 for a contest with Bellarmine at 7:05 p.m.

Indiana State (1-0)

Just like eight of the other nine MVC teams, Indiana State opened its season with a victory. The Sycamores downed Gardner Webb 67-53 Sunday. Amani Danish tallied 17 points to go along with nine rebounds and five steals to lead ISU. David Moss added 12 points and seven assists in the winning effort.

Northern Iowa (1-1)

UNI overcame a slow start and used a 16-0 run to breeze past Chicago State 83-59 on Friday night. Sophomore guard Ben Jacobson led the Panthers with 18 points, and freshman forward Grant Stout made a strong debut with 12 points.

Butler came to town on Tuesday night and ran away with a close victory, 56-54. UNI head coach Greg McDermott knew his team was in for a fight, but was optimistic the Panthers would pull off a win if they played their style of basketball. Butler is trying to prove they still belong after losing several starters from last season’s Sweet 16 team.

Southern Illinois (1-0)

Losing two key players and the head coach from last season didn’t stop the Salukis in a 67-62 season-opening win over Wyoming Saturday. Junior guard Darren Brooks was one of four SIU players scoring in double figures with 16 points. Southern Illinois recovered from shooting 28% in the first half to sink 16 of 30 shots in the second half. Wyoming started three new players in the loss.

Southwest Missouri State (3-1)

SMS had no trouble fighting through the first two rounds of the Guardians Classic in Kansas City, Mo. with easy wins over Western Illinois and San Francisco. South Carolina appeared to be a roadblock in the semifinal round though as they knocked of the Bears, 77-64. Junior Tommy Johnson scored a career high 25 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Gamecocks sank eight 3-pointers in the second half to put the game away. SMS captured third place at the Guardians Classic by quickly disposing of San Francisco again 72-51. The Bears took a 15-point lead to the half and capped it off by hitting 8 shots from beyond the arc in the second frame.

Wichita State (2-1)

The Paradise Jam Tournament has been anything but a paradise for WSU. The Shockers seem to like living on the edge so far this season with all three of their games coming down to the wire.

With four players scoring in double digits, WSU held on to defeat La Salle 74-71 in the quarterfinal round Friday night. Sunday’s semifinal match with Hampton was just as exciting as Hampton missed a possible game-tying 3-pointer with time expiring. Jamar Howard led the way for WSU in the game with 17 points and eight boards. The Shockers ran out of gas in the championship game against Boston College on Monday night. WSU rallied from as much as 11 down, but Fridge Holman missed a possible game-tying three, sending the Shockers to their first loss of the season, 84-81.

Players of the Week

With his 24-point effort in Illinois State’s season-opening win, Trey Guidry was named the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week. Guidry sank 12 free throws against Florida A&M, tied for most in a game at Redbird Arena.

Marcellus Sommerville is one reason why the Bradley Braves are expected to be so tough in the MVC this season. For his outstanding efforts in two victories, Sommerville was named the Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week. In his first three games, the sophomore forward has averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds.


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