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Missouri Valley Notebook

December 30, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Missouri Valley Conference Notebook

by Neal Heston

Bet at your own risk

You might as well roll dice to try and predict who will win the MVC. During the first month of the season, six teams have given reason to believe that they will be crowned champion in early March.

Creighton (8-0) would be an obvious choice as they lead the conference in points scored and points allowed. Brody Deren and Nate Funk have taken charge of the Bluejays thus far, both averaging double figures in scoring. But who has Creighton faced to prepare for what is likely to be a brutal MVC season?

Southern Illinois (8-1), Wichita State (8-2) and Southwest Missouri State (7-4) would be better bets. SIU boasts a lineup that includes six players averaging at least eight points a game against strong opponents; Four players are averaging in double figures for the Shockers (with another two almost at double figures); and SMS, though their record doesn’t show, features probably the deepest lineup in the MVC. Nine players on the Bears are averaging at least 10 minutes a game, and different players are taking care of different responsibilities.

Outside shots – though not too far outside – include Bradley and Northern Iowa. Both won’t be taken lightly though as each squad possesses weapons needed to make a serious run.

Even with Phillip Gilbert sidelined for the next month, the Braves still have a triple threat with Marcellus Sommerville, James Gillingham and Marcello Robinson. Sommerville sits at second in the MVC with 7.7 rebounds per game and is averaging double figures in scoring along with Gillingham.

If any team is prepared for MVC play, it’s Northern Iowa. The Panthers have been involved in buzzer beaters nearly every game, and they are finally finding ways to win them. Matt Schneiderman and David Gruber are again leading the MVC in rebounds, and Ben Jacobson has gotten hot from the field lately after being contained against Iowa three weeks ago. The Panthers also have the privilege of throwing fresh legs out on the floor with added depth this season.

Save yourself a headache by trying to pick a champion. Just buckle up and get ready for a wild ride through the Missouri Valley.

Player of the Week

Creighton’s Joe Dabbert is my MVC Player of the Week with his career-high 19 points and nine rebounds in the Bluejays’ win over Wyoming.

Newcomer of the Week

Southern Illinois’ LaMar Owen is my Newcomer of the Week with his 16 points and eight rebounds against Illinois State, as SIU improved to 2-0 in the MVC on Saturday.

MVC Game of the Week

Southern Illinois 57, Illinois State 40

The Salukis allowed their fewest points ever to a Missouri Valley opponent as they improved to 2-0 in the conference. Illinois State managed just 32% shooting from the field and connected on only three treys.

In his first career start for Southern Illinois, LaMar Owen tallied 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds in his debut. He was replacing Brad Korn who sat out with the flu. Trey Guidry and Marcus Arnold were held silent for the Redbirds. Both of ISU’s leading scorers combined for just 12 points.

MVC Notes

Given that every team played one or no games this week and another light schedule is set for next week, I thought it would be better to run through the highlights:

• First and foremost, Bradley will be without their leading scorer as they head into the MVC season. Phillip Gilbert developed a stress fracture in his left foot and will miss nearly four weeks. Gilbert currently leads the MVC with 20.2 points per game.

• The absence of Gilbert was felt on Sunday during Bradley’s 73-55 loss to UNLV. Sommerville, Gillingham and Robinson each reached double figures for the Braves.

• The basket just got wider as the game went on during Indiana State’s 87-60 thrashing of Tennessee-Martin last Monday. David Moss sunk 30 points, and the Sycamores hit 13 of 24 shots from behind the arc.

• Evansville’s attempt to knock off a ranked opponent went flat as Purdue rolled to an 82-62 win over the Purple Aces. Clint Cuffle was held silent for UE.

• Poor free-throw shooting cost the Drake Bulldogs on Monday during a 78-72 loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Drake could only connect on 13 of 28 free throws.

Another light schedule is on tap this week. Southwest Missouri State will face Creighton on Tuesday in a marquee MVC matchup. Also on Tuesday, Northern Iowa will host Siena and Wichita State will host Oral Roberts. Other conference contests during the week include Evansville at Indiana State on Wednesday, Evansville at Northern Iowa, Indiana State at Bradley and Drake at Wichita State on Saturday, and Creighton at Bradley on Monday.

Evansville against Indiana State (at 3 p.m.) and Creighton at Bradley (7:05 p.m.) will both be televised on Fox Sports Net.


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