Missouri State (16-15) vs. Evansville (15-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 2, 9:35 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scottrade Center (19,150) -- St. Louis, Missouri. Television: FSN-MW, IN, KC, CSN-CHI. Home Record: MSU 8-7, Evansville 11-6. Away Record: MSU 8-6, Evansville 4-8. Neutral Record: MSU 0-2, Evansville 0-0. Conference Record: MSU 9-9, Evansville 9-9. Series Record: Missouri State leads, 30-25.
GAME NOTES: Quarterfinal-round action in the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament continues tonight at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, as the sixth- seeded Missouri State Bears take on the third-seeded Evansville Purple Aces.
Missouri State started off the season as one of the MVC's strongest teams, going 7-0 out of the gate. Since then however, it has been mediocre at best, finishing just a game over .500 overall (16-15). The Bears also finished 9-9 in conference, though they earned the sixth seed by virtue of the tie-breaker. MSU cannot be pleased with backing into the tournament as it lost four straight decisions to close out the regular season.
Evansville finished the regular season at 15-14 and in a five-way tie for third place with a 9-9 record in the conference. The third-place finish was its second-best regular-season standing since entering the MVC back in 1994, and it clinched its first back-to-back winning regular seasons since 1998-99. Evansville earned the highest seed of the five 9-9 teams (three) by holding the best head-to-head record against the other contending teams.
Tonight serves as a rematch to the regular-season finale just last Saturday, where Evansville defeated Missouri State in overtime, 75-70, to pull even with the Bears in the standings and ultimately, win the tie-breaker for the No. 3 seed. MSU still leads the all-time series, 30-25, although the Purple Aces have won three in a row.
Though Missouri State's offense has been average at best (88 ppg), its defense has been top-notch, ranking second in the conference in both points allowed per game (62.7) and field goal percentage defense (.405), although it has slipped during its four game losing streak, allowing 70 ppg over that span. Kyle Weems has been the Bears' most productive player, ranking fifth in the MVC in scoring at 15.4 ppg while also tallying 7.1 rpg and 58 three-pointers. Weems needs just two assists to reach 200 for his career and thus becoming the only player in MSU history to record 800 rebounds and 200 assists. He is also the only active player in Division I and the only MVC player in history to record 1,800 points, 800 rebounds and 200 three-pointers in his career. Providing support for Weems on offense is Anthony Downing (11.6 ppg) and Jamar Gulley (10.5 ppg).
Evansville is led by its star player, Colt Ryan, who ranks second in the conference in scoring (20.5 ppg) and he has knocked down the most three- pointers (68) at a 43.3 percent clip. The junior claimed his third MVC Player of the Week award this season last week, and he was also named to the 2011-12 All-MVC First Team. Denver Holmes (11.5 ppg) and Kenneth Harris (10.8 ppg) also help an offense that ranks third in the conference in scoring (73.2 ppg), with Holmes being honored as apart of the All-MVC Honorable Mention squad. The Purple Aces have a few intangibles that have helped them through their impressive season, including the nation's 10th-best free-throw percentage (.764) and the fourth-best turnover margin (+4.9). Evansville has played tough all season long, losing eight games by a combined 15 points.
With both previous matchups this season between these two teams going to overtime, this is sure to be another tight bout. Evansville currently has the momentum, but Weems will prove to be the difference maker for Missouri State in this one, as he has scored 89 points in six career MVC Tournament games.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Missouri State 68, Evansville 65
03/02 10:32:24 ET