Missouri Valley Conference women's basketball teams posted a 7-6 record over the past week (Dec. 11-17), which included key wins by league-leader Illinois State and Missouri State. The Redbirds are 7-2 in non-conference action and downed visiting Eastern Michigan for its fifth-straight win on Sunday (Dec. 17), while Missouri State, sparked offensively by this week's Player of the Week Tahnee Balerio, handed Oregon just its second loss of the year on Dec. 16. Kenyatta Shelton of Illinois State earned Newcomer of the Week honors after recording her fifth double double of the year against the Eagles.
15 to Play
Missouri Valley Conference teams have 15 more non-conference tilts before the Valley season officially gets underway on Dec. 28. Currently, the Valley's record against non-conference foes is 43-48, while posting winning records against 12 Division I conferences that include the Pac-10 and Mid-American.
The national women's basketball statistics are updated on the NCAA site and Valley teams highlight the lists. Visit www.ncaasports.com for the latest national stats from Division I schools. Some highlights: Kristi Cirone of Illinois State ranks second in the nation in assists per game (7.7) while Indiana State ranks first as a team in three point field goal percetange.
The Valley's current RPI (according to Collegiate Basketball News RPI rankings) is 16 as a league while Illinois State, which sits atop the standings, has the league's highest RPI (46). Missouri State's win over Oregon helped propell the Bears from a 203 rating last week to a 148 rank this week.
State Farm/ Missouri Valley Player of the Week
Tahnee Balerio, Missouri State
Jr., G, Buhler, Kan.
This week’s Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week is Tahnee Balerio of Missouri State.
Balerio poured in a career-high and league-best 39 points to lead the Lady Bears to a 71-56 victory over Oregon over the week. The Pac-10 foe entered the game on a five game win streak while also suffering just one loss on the season.
In addition to her offensive surge, the junior guard added eight rebounds, an assist and two steals in the contest.
She scored 11 points in a critical 13-4 Missouri State run that turned a three-point Lady Bear lead into a 58-46 advantage with just over six minutes remaining in the game. With Missouri State leading, 45-42 with 11:21 left on the clock, Balerio drained her fourth three-pointer of the contest to push the margin to six points, then coolly sank another trey on the Lady Bears’ next trip down the court to extend the lead to 51-44 at the 10:38 mark.
The Buhler, Kan., native capped the scoring spurt with a jumper that put Missouri State up by 12 and essentially sealed the Lady Bears’ third win of the season.
In all, Balerio scored 22 of her 39 points in the second half and ﬁnished the game 10-of-15 from the ﬂoor, including 5-of-7 from beyond the three-point arc. She knocked down 14 free throws in a school record-tying 20 attempts and hauled in a career-best eight rebounds as well. Balerio’s 39-point effort ranks 15th all-time on the MSU single-game scoring list and only three Lady Bears have posted bigger scoring nights, including MVC Hall of Famers Jackie Stiles and Melody Howard.
Newcomer of the Week
Kenyatta Shelton, Illinois State
Fr., F, Chicago, Ill.
This week’s Newcomer of the Week is Kenyatta Shelton of Illinois State.
In Illinois State’s only action of the week, freshman forward Kenyatta Shelton recorded her fifth double-double of the season with 20 points and 10 rebounds in Sunday’s 68-55 win over three-time MAC-West champion Eastern Michigan.
In a team-high 38 minutes, Shelton shot at a 73 percent clip (8-for-11) for the game, including a perfect 6-for-6, game-high 14 point effort in the first half. Of her 10 caroms, six were on the offensive end. Shelton has led the Redbirds in scoring in three games, and has been the top ISU rebounder in seven individual contests while ranking fourth in the league in rebounding this season.
Other Notable Performers:
Erika Nelson, Bradley; Brandy Dahir, Drake; Rebekah Parker, Evansville; Kenyatta Shelton, Illinois State; Laura Rudolphi, Indiana State; Jessie Biggs, UNI; Erica Smith, Southern Illinois.
Monique Jones, Drake; Tal Milchan, Evansville; Kelsey Luna, Indiana State; Ashley Lord, Missouri State; Danielle Wubbens, UNI; Dana Olsen, Southern Illinois.
Around the League
Nelson Ties Record
Senior guard Erika Nelson tied a Robertson Memorial Field House record with seven three-point field goals Sunday against Northern Illinois. Nelson, who hit 7-of-11 three-point attempts, is the fourth Bradley player and sixth person to connect on seven three-pointers in a game at the Field House and finished with a career-high 25 points against the Huskies. Nelson joined former Braves Genny Mueller, Michelle Nason and Nancy Zoros, along with Evansville’s Alissa Kirby and Creighton’s Missy Miller as the only players to hit seven three-pointers in a game at the Field House. On the season, Nelson has made 31-of-66 three-point attempts (.470) and is leading the team with a 14.3 points per game average. Over the last four games Nelson is averaging 20.3 points per game and is shooting 58.8 percent (20-for-34) from beyond
Thursday’s game will mark the last time senior Ashley Chelleen will get to play against her sister Stephanie, a junior on the Illinois women’s basketball team. Ashley and the Braves posted a 70-67 victory against the Illini in Champaign during Stephanie’s freshman season at Illinois, but the Illini won last year’s rematch, defeating Bradley 80-64 at Robertson Field House last season.
Ending on a High Note
Bradley will be looking to wrap up the non-conference portion of the schedule on a high note when the Braves host Illinois on Thursday. Bradley has finished the non-conference schedule with a victory each of the last three seasons and wrapped up non-conference with a win in five of the previous six seasons under head coach Paula Buscher. The lone loss was a 44-80 home setback against Saint Louis on Dec. 29, 2002.
In State Rivals
Creighton plays host to Nebraska on Tuesday in its annual meeting with its instate foe coached by CU Hall of Famer and former Bluejay head coach Connie Yori. The Bluejays are 2-2 against their former coach under current head coach Jim Flanery. The home team has won every meeting since 1999, while CU’s 82-74 loss to NU in Omaha in 1998 was the last time the visiting team captured a win. Last year’s 84-50 loss at NU was one of the largest margins of defeat in the 31-game series history (nU leads 21-10).
Sophomore Chevelle Herring has scored in double figures in four straight games since establishing a career-high with 18 points at Missouri (Dec. 2). She then totalled 10 points against Eastern Illinois, 16 at Memphis and then 12 against Oregon State last Friday. She is averaging 14 points per game over that span, and is now at 9.3 points
As indicated by Creighton’s two-game winning streak, the Bluejays are improving. Creighton is averaging 73.8 points per game in its last five, after opening with 59 points per game through its first four. CU has a postitive scorin gmargin in its last five games (+0.4), after getting out-scored by 14.7 through its first four games. The Jays are shooting 42 percent from the field in their last five contests, compared to just 36 percent in the first four games of the year. CU is also out rebounding opponentsover its last five games (+1.6) after getting out boarded by 4.2 through the opening four games.
Dahir Does It Right
The 31 points by Dahir represented a career high and marked the first Drake player to surpass the 30-point plateau since Stephanie Schmitz recorded 36 against Bradley on March 7, 2002. She also pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds to register her sixth career double-double and first since March 5, 2005 versus Southern Illinois, while connecting on a team season-high 13 shots from the field.
The Bulldogs recorded their first victory over a Pac-10 school since a 55-51 home victory over Southern Cal on Nov. 19, 2000.
In State Rival
Drake will be in search of its first victory over Iowa since a 75-72 overtime triumph on Nov. 25, 2001 when the two sides meet on Friday (Dec. 22). A win over the Hawkeyes would represent the first time since the 1978-79 campaign that both the men’s and women’s basketball teams have defeated Iowa in the same season.
Parker is Paradise
UE junior guard Rebekah Parker earned all-tournament team honors at the 2006 Paradise Classic in Honolulu this past weekend, as she averaged 22.0 points per game on 51.9 percent shooting from the floor and a perfect 13-for-13 shooting from the free throw line. Parker scored a career-high 26 points in UE’s 87-81 victory over Portland State on Saturday to help Evansville to its highest scoring output of the season. Parker is the first Purple Aces to earn all-tournament team honors since Jamie Gray was named to the 2002 Oakland Tribune Classic All-Tournament team.
UE sophomore center Shannon Novosel produced her finest game as a Purple Ace on Saturday against Portland State, as she scored a career-high 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field. She also grabbed a team-high six rebounds and swiped two steals in 25 minutes of play. Novosel finished the weekend shooting 57.1 percent from the floor (8-for-14) and 83.3 percent from the free throw line (5-for-6). Novosel has developed into one of UE’s top free throw shooters this year, as she has hit 13 of 15 free throw attempts for an 86.7 percent mark. She shot just 56.4 percent from the free throw line last year as a rookie.
Evansville threw a block party on Saturday against Portland State, as the Purple Aces rejected a season-high seven shots against the Vikings. Senior center Amanda DeVries led the block party with a career-high five rejections in 15 minutes off of the UE bench. DeVries has quickly taken over the team lead in blocked shots, as she has recorded seven blocks in the last three games to move her season total to eight. Overall, Evansville has rejected 29 shots this year in 10 games for a 2.9 blocks per game average.
Is it Heaven? No, Iowa
Illinois State head coach Robin Pingeton will be returning to one of her major coaching roots when the Redbirds travel to Iowa State on Wednesday. Pingeton served on current Cyclones head coach Bill Fennelly’s staff from 2000-2003, including the last season (2002-03) as the associate head coach. She helped Iowa State win at Big XII championship and advance to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in the 2000-01 season. The Cyclones were 63-31 during Pingeton’s three seasons in Ames. Senior co-captain guard Megan McCracken also has roots at Iowa State; having played one year with the Cyclones before following Pingeton’s lead and transferring to Illinois State prior to the 2003-04 season.
Illinois State’s current starting five (guards Kristi Cirone, Tiffany Hudson and Maggie Krick, forward Kenyatta Shelton and center Lashawn Johnson), the third starting lineup that Pingeton has used this season, improved to a flawless 5-0 on the year with Sunday’s 68-55 win over Eastern Michigan.
In the Paint
Illinois State outscored Eastern Michigan 36-28 in the paint Sunday, marking the eighth time in nine games that the Redbirds’ front line has outscored their counterparts in the paint. The only team to outscore ISU in the paint this season was Ball State, who edged them, 36-30.
Indiana State trailed Toledo by a score of 26-23 at halftime of Sunday afternoon’s game only to come from behind and take a 53-51 victory. It was the first time this season that the Sycamores had come from down at the half to win a game. ISU was 0-3 heading into the game in contests in which they trailed at the break. Prior to the Toledo game, the last time the Sycamores came from behind at the half to win was on February 4, 2006 when they overcame a 33-28 halftime deficit to down Illinois State 75-71 at Redbird Arena.
Toledo out-rebounded the Sycamores by a 43-40 margin, breaking Indiana State’s string of four games in which they hauled in more caroms than the opposition. ISU had out-rebounded each of its last four opponents before facing the Rockets, a string that snapped a 12-game skid in which the opposition got more rebounds than the Sycamores.
Indiana State junior Laura Rudolphi’s 14 points at Toledo give her a string of six consecutive games in which she has reached double figures scoring. Rudolphi paces the team with a 14.1 ppg average.
Balerio’s Big Day
Junior guard Tahnee Balerio turned in a game to remember in the Lady Bears’ 71-56 win over Oregon on Saturday. Her 39-point outburst obliterated her previous career high (23) and represented the highest offensive output by a Lady Bear since Jackie Stiles torched Duke for 41 in MSU’s 81-71 victory in the 2001 NCAA West Regional semifinal (3/24/01). Balerio also tied the school record for free-throw attempts in a game (20) and grabbed a career-best eight boards in the win over the Ducks. Just three players in the history of the Missouri State program have scored more points in a game; Stiles (on 12 separate occasions), Melody Howard (41 vs. Drake, 2/19/94) and Tara Mitchem (40 vs. Toledo, 3/17/01).
If You Build It, They Will Come
Missouri State will break ground on the $67 million JQH Arena on Thursday, Dec. 21, in the east parking lot adjacent to Hammons Student Center. The new 11,000-seat arena is slated for completion in time for the start of the 2008-09 basketball season. Through this season’s first four home dates the Lady Bears drew 21,184 fans, or an average of 5,296 per contest. That figure ranked 13th in the nation according to the Dec. 11 unofficial attendance report compiled by the University of Wisconsin. Last year, MSU finished 13th in the final attendance report with an average of 6,289 fans per game.
The Lady Bears’ early-season injury woes continued this past week, as junior forward Tiff Terwelp was shelved with a lower leg injury. Terwelp was averaging 12.4 points and a Valley-best 12.6 rebounds per game at the time of her injury, which should keep her out of action until at least the start of conference play (Dec. 30 vs. Southern Illinois). As a result of Terwelp’s injury, Missouri State has now lost five players for a total of 25 games through the first five weeks of the season. Freshmen Erica Biel, Melissa Busby and Tag Morris have been out of commission since the second game of the season, while junior forward Brandi Johnson was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury in practice on Nov. 14. The Lady Bears made a roster move, to combat the mounting injury toll, adding 5-7 junior guard Erica Warfield to the squad this past Saturday.
On the Road Again
The Panthers play in their final road game of 2006 on Tuesday, when they play at Iowa. UNI wraps up its non-conference schedule against IPFW on Dec. 21 in the McLeod Center. If the Panthers win both games, they will secure a winning non-conference season for the third consecutive year.
Hustle and Flow
The Panthers dominated the hustle stats in their 67-49 win over Valparaiso. UNI outrebounded the Crusaders 42-28, and allowed Valpo just six offensive rebounds. The Panthers came up with 10 steals, nearly half of the 22 Valpo turnovers that resulted in 22 UNI points.
Highs and Lows
The Panthers have rebounded quite nicely from their loss to No. 1 Maryland on Dec. 6. After shooting a school-record low 20.6 percent from the floor in that loss, UNI has shot a combined 50-of-113 (45 percent) in its next two games. The Panthers managed just 33 points against the defending national champion, but has averaged 78.5 points in its two games since.
One More Time
The Salukis are coming off of a four game road stretch spanning 18 days across the country from Utah to Indiana. SIU is glad to return home, if just for one game, a noon tip-off against Tennessee Tech Tuesday. The game marks the last of 11 non-conference contests before the Salukis begin conference play at Wichita State and Missouri State after the holiday break.
Learning Their Lesson
Five times this season, the Salukis have led in the second half or come from behind to lead in the second half, but let that lead slip away in the final minutes or seconds of the game. In a close game at South Alabama, SIU led with less than ten seconds to play, but a cross court pass play was foiled by USA, winning the game, 60-59. The Salukis have also held second-half leads against Missouri, San Francisco and most recently Indiana, but could not pick up a victory.
Freshman Dana Olsen has worked her way into the starting lineup after just eight games this season. The forward averaged 7.9 points, 3.3 boards, shooting 60 percent from the field off the bench. In two games as a starter, Olsen has averaged 6.5 points, 5.0 boards, shooting 80 percent from the field. She recorded a career-best 24 points againt Murray State and 10 rebounds at Indiana.
Wichita State’s last-second loss against New Mexico on Saturday afternoon was unfortunately not an unfamiliar scene. The 43-footer that sank the Shockers at the buzzer marked the second time in the last four games that WSU has lost on a buzzer-beating shot. San Diego State sank a shot as time expired in overtime to give the Shockers the loss on Dec. 5 as well.
The women’s basketball team will host more than 6,500 local elementary and middle school students for the game at Noon Tuesday against Northern Colorado. Schools are using the event as a scheduled field trip where student can enjoy educational activities surrounding the gameday festivities inside Charles Koch Arena. The field trip will have an educational emphasis on math with each student receiving a packet of activities for them to complete throughout the game. If desired, math teachers can add to the activities given to make it more specific to what their students are learning at the time.
Wrap It Up
The Shockers wrap up non-conference action this week when they host Northern Colorado and Jackson State as part of a seven-game homestand. WSU hosts Jackson State on Thursday before taking a week off to prepare for conference action, which begins at home on Dec. 28 against Southern Illinois
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