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Missouri Valley Notebook

December 17, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Missouri Valley Conference Notebook

by Neal Heston

Panthers and Bluejays steal bragging rights

After being fouled with less than a minute to play, Northern Iowa’s Brooks McKowen looked up at the clock to see how much time remained for a UNI upset to be put in the books. Forty five seconds later, UNI grabbed bragging rights over then 24th-ranked Iowa with a 77-66 upset last Tuesday in Cedar Falls. It was the second time in three years a ranked Hawkeye team hit a roadblock while visiting the UNI-Dome.

The UNI-Iowa contest was just one of four in-state rivalry games taking place for MVC teams last week. The Missouri Valley went 2-2 as other games included Valparaiso taking down Indiana State on Monday, Kansas State shocking Wichita State and Creighton slipping past Nebraska in front of a record crowd.

Iowa (6-1) and Northern Iowa (3-3) were going back and forth in the first 34 minutes of play before McKowen sunk the Panthers’ first trey of the game to send UNI ahead 62-59. Before McKowen’s three, UNI had gone 0-14 from behind the arc. Everything completely fell apart for the Hawkeyes after Erik Crawford threw up a rainbow from beyond the arc in desperation to beat the shot clock. It fell in, putting UNI ahead by six with 2:57 left.

“We had one of those shots go against us with Butler,” commented UNI head coach Greg McDermott on Crawford’s three. “It went our way this time.”

Crawford led the UNI surge with 24 points and McKowen tallied another 15 for the Panthers. Pierre Pierce lit up the Panther defense in the first half while piling up 14 points, but he managed only one point for the Hawkeyes in the second half.

One night earlier Valparaiso took down Indiana State in a messy contest between in-state rivals. It was a matter of who could shoot better in the second half, and that was Valparaiso in a 59-53 victory. David Moss and Amani Daanish both reached double figures for the Sycamores, but it wasn’t enough as Valpo defeated ISU for the fourth time in five years.

Heading out west, two barnburners took place on Wednesday. The largest crowd ever recorded at a basketball game in Nebraska witnessed Creighton hold off a Nebraska rally for a 61-54 victory. A total of 15,561 fans packed the Qwest Center as the Bluejays held on for their 22nd consecutive win at home. Brody Deren and Nate Funk tallied 13 points each to propel Creighton to its fifth straight win over the Huskers.

Further south, Wichita State couldn’t control a Kansas State rally as the Wildcats squeezed past the Shockers, 54-50. WSU led by as much as 10, but Kansas State fought back for its second consecutive win over the Shockers. Randy Burns led the Shockers with 12 points.

Each of the four teams will take some much-needed rest before they hit the courts again on Saturday.

No place like home

Every team would like to play in front of its home crowd, but the Missouri Valley seems to really enjoy it so far this season. The MVC boasts a 29-5 home record against non-conference opponents. Away from their cozy homes, the conference is just 13-19. Thankfully, the majority of the remaining non-conference slate will be on a MVC team’s court.

MVC Game of the Week

Wichita State 81, Southwest Missouri State 63

The first half was a little physical as the Shockers struggled with technical fouls and fell behind by ten late in the first frame. But WSU recovered to only trail by one at the half and stormed out of the locker room to completely dominate the second half. Randy Burns piled up 19 points and was one of five Shockers scoring in double figures. Fridge Holman also recorded 10 assists for WSU. The Bears managed only 32% shooting from the field and connected on just five of 23 shots from beyond the arc.

Northern Iowa will visit Illinois State on Saturday for the only MVC game of the week. Tip-off is set for 12:05 p.m. and will be televised by Fox Sports Net.

Player of the Week:

Nate Funk, Creighton

The conference chooses Indiana State’s David Moss, but I think Nate Funk deserves the honor. The sophomore guard played a large role in both of Creighton’s victories last week. Funk contributed 13 points against in-state rival Nebraska, and he nailed a trey at the buzzer against Fresno State, capping a Bluejays’ rally and forcing overtime.

Newcomer of the Week:

Erik Crawford, Northern Iowa

Crawford takes the spotlight away from Bradley’s Marcellus Sommerville for at least one week. The sophomore guard’s three put the Hawkeyes away for good in the Panthers’ upset. He led all players in that game with his career-high 24 points and added another 12 points in UNI’s win over Minnesota-Crookston.

Team Notes

Bradley (6-2 / 0-0)

An MVC team finally put the Butler Bulldogs to sleep as Bradley rallied for a 59-55 victory last Wednesday. It was Butler who couldn’t hold onto a lead this time, and it cost them an eight-game winning streak over the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bulldogs enjoyed an 11-point lead at halftime before the Braves got hot from the field. Phillip Gilbert led Bradley with 18 points and Marcellus Sommerville added another 17.

Bradley has a relatively busy week compared to most other teams in the Missouri Valley. Loyola-Chicago comes to Carver Arena on Dec. 17, and then the Braves will head west to face Pepperdine on Dec. 20.

Creighton (6-0 / 0-0)

The Bluejays faced strong competition during the last week of play while taking contests over Fresno State and in-state rival Nebraska. After holding off the Huskers last Wednesday, Nate Funk’s three beat the buzzer to help Creighton rally back from an eight-point deficit and force overtime against Fresno State. The Bluejays went on to win 70-62. Funk ended the contest with nine points. Michael Lindeman led the attack with 19.

Creighton will have a chance for rest this week and then will look to extend the school-record home winning streak (22) even further when Arkansas-Little Rock visits the Qwest Center on Dec. 20. The Bluejays will end their non-conference schedule at Wyoming on Dec. 22.

Drake (3-3 / 0-1)

With the 1968-69 Drake Final Four team watching, Dr. Tom and the Bulldogs didn’t disappoint during a 71-56 win over Southern Utah on Saturday in Des Moines. Drake stole the ball 15 times and jumped out to a 20-point lead by halftime. Southern Utah’s rally fell short in the second half. Lonnie Randolph had quite the game for the home team, recording career-highs for rebounds (9) and steals (6) in a game. He also tallied eight points and six assists for the Bulldogs.

The non-conference schedule is winding down for Drake, but the next contest is a big one as Iowa State will make the trip down to Des Moines on Dec. 20. The Cyclones will look to make it two for two against teams from Iowa and the MVC this season. They held off Northern Iowa, 79-76, on Nov. 30.

Evansville (1-4 / 0-0)

It nearly happened again. The Purple Aces built a 19-point lead over Eastern Illinois, only to let it dwindle down to two late in the game. This time Evansville held on for their first victory of the season, 86-76. Lee Deywayne scored 17 on the night and Lucious Wagner added another 16 for the Purple Aces.

Mississippi will visit Roberts Stadium on Wednesday. Afterwards, UE will head to Bowling Green to face Western Kentucky on Dec. 20.

Illinois State (3-3 / 0-0)

In their lone contest this week, the Redbirds fell down early and couldn’t recover in an 86-74 setback to Illinois-Chicago. A 22-point deficit was trimmed to as little as eight, but that was all ISU could manage. With 20 points, Trey Guidry was one of four Redbirds scoring in double figures on the night.

The Redbirds have two home games to look forward to this week. Western Kentucky will travel to Normal for a contest on Dec. 16, and Northern Iowa will face the Redbirds on Saturday in the lone MVC game of the week.

Indiana State (3-3 / 0-0)

After dropping a sloppy 59-53 decision to in-state rival Valparaiso, the Sycamores recovered to hold off Ball State 66-65 on Saturday. Ball State had one final chance to win with the clock winding down, but ISU made a defensive stand for the victory. David Moss contributed 24 points in the winning cause.

The Sycamores will look to end Butler’s run of success against MVC teams when they travel to Indianapolis on Dec. 20. Bradley managed to do it last week when they ended the Bulldog’s eight-game winning streak against the MVC. From there ISU will host Tennessee-Martin on Dec. 22 to conclude the non-conference slate.

Northern Iowa (4-3 / 0-0)

The Panthers got back on track last week as they reached the win column twice and regained their consistency from beyond the arc. UNI recovered from its worst shooting performance of the season against Furman to defeat 24th-ranked Iowa in Cedar Falls on Tuesday. There was no let down on Saturday either as they breezed past Minnesota-Crookston, 80-58. Ben Jacobson lit up the scoreboard for 19 points against Minnesota-Crookston after being held mostly silent against Iowa. The Panthers also regained their accuracy from beyond the arc, hitting 8 of 17.

UNI has just one game this week, a conference contest at Illinois State on Saturday. The two teams split the series last season, with the home team winning each time.

Southern Illinois (5-0 / 1-0)

The Salukis had a week off to savor their first MVC win this season. This week is a full slate though with road games at Wright State on Dec. 15 and Murray State on Dec. 17. SIU has a home date with Montana on Dec. 21 before stepping back into MVC play.

Southwest Missouri State (5-4 / 0-1)

SMS has run into a rough stretch after dropping two consecutive games last week, an 80-66 loss to San Diego last Tuesday and an 81-63 setback to Wichita State Saturday. Blake Aheam connected for six 3-pointers against San Diego, but the Bears had already climbed into too large of a hole by then. Monwell Randle recorded a double-double with 19 points and 15 rebounds in the losing cause.

The Bears will look to get back on the winning track this week before the MVC season gets in full swing. A road contest at UMKC is set for Dec. 17. Saint Louis will be at Hammons Student Center on Dec. 20.

Wichita State (6-2 / 1-0)

The Shockers couldn’t hold off a late rally against state-rival Kansas State as the Wildcats earned their second consecutive victory over WSU last Wednesday, 54-50. Randy Burns had 12 points on the night, but the Shockers couldn’t hold a 10-point advantage over Kansas State. With 19 points, Burns led WSU in scoring again Saturday during an 81-63 win over Southwest Missouri State. Wichita State will host Tulsa on Dec. 20 and Texas-Arlington on Dec. 22.


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